Fabian pounds Bermuda with 120 mph winds
HAMILTON, Bermuda (CNN) -- Packing 120 mph winds, Hurricane Fabian pounded Bermuda Friday, causing buildings to sway amid the constant gusts of wind, toppling trees and felling power lines across the usually tranquil islands.
It is the most powerful storm to hit Bermuda in nearly 80 years.
The tearing winds lashed the small island for five hours before subsiding.
Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, said simply, "This is a very, very powerful hurricane."
As of 11 p.m., the eye of the storm was centered about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north-northeast of Bermuda, moving toward the northeast about 20 mph (32 kph). The storm is expected to take a gradual turn to the northeast later in the night.
CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman and his crew, watching the storm from Southhampton Parish on Bermuda's southwest corner, drove the streets shortly after the worst of the storm and counted hundreds of fallen trees and downed power lines.
Police told Tuchman there were no reports of casualties Friday night, but that they couldn't be sure no one was hurt until crews began cleanup work Saturday.
That work will be undertaken by the Bermuda Regiment, similar to the National Guard in the United States.
Conditions during the storm were treacherous. Tuchman said the hotel where he is staying was shaking and that a nearby beachside restaurant had been swallowed by the ocean. The winds also snapped power lines and trees, leaving them littered in the streets. In addition, roofs of buildings have been ripped off.
"The roads are completely impassable," Tuchman said. "It's impossible to ascertain ... how much damage there has been all over Bermuda."
Hurricane force winds -- measured at 115 mph -- extend outward up to 115 miles, and Mayfield said Bermuda should expect tropical storm force winds late into the night.
John Burchall, a Bermuda government spokesman, told CNN the storm "is severely stressing the ability of our island to cope with a storm of this magnitude." He estimated 65,000 residents and tourists are in Bermuda.
Forecasters said rainfall accumulations of five to 10 inches could be expected with coastal storm surge flooding of six to 10 feet above normal, causing "large and dangerous battering waves."
Roger Williams, head of security for the Surf Side Beach Club, said he was worried about the destruction of the storm.
"This one is certainly very much more intense than previous storms have been," he said. "I feel rather apprehensive about the winds that are very strong."
The last major storm to come ashore on the islands was in 1926 when a Category Three storm lashed the coastlines with 121 mph winds. Fabian also is a Category Three storm.
More recently, the Category Two Hurricane Arlene scored a direct hit on the islands with 100 mph winds in 1963, and Emily -- a Category One with 90 mph winds -- caused millions of dollars in damage with a direct hit in 1987. No hurricane had struck the island since that time.
The effects of Fabian will also be felt on the East Coast of the United States as large swells pound the shoreline Friday. High surf advisories were in place on the coast from south of Savannah, Georgia, to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, including all of North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Riptide warnings continued north to the Maryland coast.
Although Bermuda is no stranger to tropical weather, it has rarely suffered a direct hit from a storm of Fabian's magnitude. In addition to the 1926 and 1948 Category Three storms, an unnamed Category Four with wind speeds steady at 150 mph (241 kph) -- passed about 70 miles offshore in 1922, and Category Three Edna passed within 70 miles of the island with 115 mph winds in 1953, claiming a hurricane hunter airplane and its seven-person crew.
A Category Two storm directly hit the islands in 1948 with 100 mph winds, as did Arlene in 1963. Last year, only the very erratic Tropical Storm Kyle came within 225 miles.
Meanwhile, forecasters were keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Henri , which is threatening to bring heavy rains to the Florida Gulf Coast. As of 11 p.m. ET, the center of the storm was about 70 miles west of St. Petersburg, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.
The storm, which is moving erratically, is expected to move east-northeast over the penninsula Saturday.
Mayfield said much of Florida was already saturated for rains and that Henri could lead to major flooding. Forecasters are predicting 4-8 inches of rain.
"It doesn't take much more rain to cause some significant flooding here," he said.