CORRECTED-UPDATE 7-Hurricane Gonzalo scores direct hit on Bermuda
(Corrects spelling of governor's name to Fergusson in 10th paragraph)
By Sam Strangeways
HAMILTON, Bermuda Oct 17 (Reuters) - Hurricane Gonzalo scored a direct hit on Bermuda on Friday evening, knocking out most of the electricity there as it lashed the tiny Atlantic island chain with pounding surf, drenching rains and sustained winds topping 100 miles (161 km) per hour.
The strongest storm to sweep the subtropical British territory in a decade made full landfall at about 8:30 p.m. local time as the large eye of Gonzalo, 35 miles (56 km) wide, crossed the south-central coast of Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported.
The Category 2 hurricane was packing sustained winds of up to 110 miles per hour (175 kph), down from 140 miles per hour (225 kph) earlier in the day, but remained a dangerous storm, the forecasters said. Hurricane force winds extended up to 60 miles (95 km) from its center.
The low-lying archipelago has a total area of only 21 square miles (54 sq km), and the hurricane center warned that once the eye had passed, the islands would still be battered with damaging winds and a life-threatening storm surge.
Flooding was reported in some areas and many banana trees had been knocked over. The islands' only power company, Bermuda Electric Light Co. (BELCO), reported nearly 31,000 customers were without electricity, out of 36,000 metered connections.
"Right now, where I am, we are hearing rain lashing at the walls and windows, which are starting to leak, and intense gusts of wind pounding the building, making the glass pulsate," said Susan McGrath-Smith, spokeswoman for BELCO, who was riding out the storm at the company's headquarters with her two dogs, Marley and Abby.
"We have also heard transformers explode outside," she added. Continuación...