Tropical storm warning for Bermuda

December 15, 2010 10:40:24 AM PST
Bertha has weakened into a tropical storm as it hovers near Bermuda, but forecasters say it might still deal a glancing blow to the Atlantic island. The Bermuda Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning, with Bertha's outer bands expected to brush the island in the coming days.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says maximum sustained winds decreased Sunday morning to about 70 mph (115 kph), with the storm centered about 220 miles (355 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda.

The storm remained mostly stationary on Saturday, and even forecasters hit a lull: "After a week or so ... I am running out of things to say about Bertha," read one official report.

Most tourists chose to hang out in pools and walk along the beach instead of battle the stronger surf and rip currents along Bermuda's southern coast. Signs have been posted announcing that beaches are closed.

"You can go out and swim if you like, but lifeguards will not come out and get you," said Darnell Joell, a bartender at Coco Reef resort.

Lifeguards at Horseshoe Beach blocked the shoreline with bright red tape and turned tourists away. Many lingered, however, taking pictures of the crashing waves.

David Nardella, who was visiting from Ohio, remained on the beach with his wife and young son.

"Hurricanes are fun," he said. "We're not hoping for a direct hit, but I'm hoping that as a 5-year-old, Ryan can understand hurricanes aren't always bad if you are safe enough."

On Saturday evening, Bertha was centered about 215 miles (345 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and had maximum sustained winds of about 75 mph (120 kph) with some higher gusting.

The storm is expected to pass well east of Bermuda, although any inclination toward the west would create stronger winds. Bermuda will likely receive up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain over the weekend.

Rain had already started falling at Elbow Beach by midday on Saturday, driving tourists away.

But many remained largely unconcerned.

"It's not really going to hit that hard," said Eilif Kenny, 21, who is visiting from Ireland. "If it was, I'd go stay in the holiday apartment, and I'd be under the bed."

Some hotel owners recommended that their guests visit beaches along the north coast, where waters are calmer.

Bertha became the Atlantic season's first hurricane on July 7 and has vacillated between a Category 1 and 2 storm.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Elida formed off Mexico's Pacific coast Saturday.

The hurricane center says Elida, the fifth tropical storm of the Pacific season, has sustained winds of nearly 45 mph (75 kph), with higher gusts.

On Saturday afternoon, Elida was located about 235 miles (380 kilometers) south of Acapulco and was traveling west-northwest at near 17 mph (28 kmh).

The center said Elida could become a hurricane late Sunday or Monday, but is expected to remain well south of the Mexican coast over the next two days.