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Hurricane Bill churns seas off Bermuda

August 22, 2009|Associated Press

HAMILTON, BERMUDA — Hurricane Bill slammed punishing waves into Bermuda's coastal seawalls Friday as it spun over the open Atlantic, spreading big swells across the Bahamas and the southeast coast of the United States.

The Category 2 hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters said the hurricane could regain intensity over the weekend as its center passes between Bermuda and the eastern U.S. seaboard.

Tourists gathered at Bermuda's pink sand beaches to watch the powerful surf. Many shrugged off the threat of the approaching storm.

On the United States' East Coast, offshore waves of 20 feet or more and rip currents at the beach are expected over the weekend.

Forecasters warned boaters and swimmers from northeastern Florida to New England of incoming swells, as Bill passes far out to sea on a northward track toward Canada's Maritime provinces.

Some roads along Bermuda's northern coast were flooded and traffic was heavy in Hamilton, the capital. The airport, which is accessible only by a low causeway bridge, announced that it was closing Friday for the duration of the storm. All ferry service was canceled until Sunday.

Bill was forecast to bring 1 to 3 inches of rain to Bermuda, with up to 5 inches in some areas. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 85 miles from its center Friday night.

Much of Bermuda, a wealthy financial center, is solidly built and able to withstand rough weather. But storm tides are expected to raise water levels up to 3 feet along the shores. Large swells from the storm also were affecting Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the Bahamas.

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