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A hurricane is a tropical storm with cyclonic wind speeds greater than 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms have had a major impact on Bermuda. Indeed it was a hurricane that led to the colonisation of the island by Sir George Somers and the crew of the Sea Venture in 1609.

Despite this, the risk posed by hurricanes to visitors is fairly minimal. Most hurricanes formed in the Atlantic move west to the Caribbean or the southeast coast of US. They then move north and then northeast, roughly following the path of the Gulf Stream. Most miss Bermuda completely. The island has an area of just 21 square miles and is an extremely small target. The chance of a hurricane passing directly over Bermuda is remote, though it has happened.

There is a common perception in the United States that the island is prone to hurricanes. It has arisen because the Bermuda is the only landmass in a large area of the Atlantic. It is therefore frequently referred to in media reports about hurricanes, despite the fact that most of these storms will have no effect on the island.

Historically Bermuda has been affected by a hurricane every 2 years, though usually the damage and disruption is minimal. Over the year islanders have learnt to deal with them quite successfully. The early settlers built using wood and soon discovered this wasn’t suitable. All occupied buildings are now constructed using stone or concrete and most have shutters, and high impact windows and doors. Unlike much of the United States, there are no flimsy wooden houses in Bermuda.

In a severe storm power outages are fairly common. Around 45 percent of the cables that deliver power to homes are overhead. Outages occur when these come into contact with trees and flying debris. There may also be shore erosion, and damage to vegetation and street furniture. Buildings and houses are usually largely unaffected.

Historically a devastating storm hits the island every 7 years. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, though in recent years the island has mainly been affected in September and October.

Recent Hurricanes

The table below shows all the hurricanes that have affected Bermuda since 1990. Only Fabian, and to a lesser extent Gert and Karen, have caused significant damage.

October 28 1991GraceCategory 2 hurricane formed south of Bermuda. No significant effects on the island.
August 14 1995FelixHurricane passed 75 miles southeast of Bermuda. No significant damage but resulted in cancelled flights, power cuts, shore erosion, and the postponement of the referendum on independence.
October 20 1996LiliPassed 150 miles southeast of Bermuda. No damage.
September 10 1997ErikaClosest point was 350 miles east the island. No damage.
September 2 1998DaniellePassed 200 miles north west of the island. Sustained winds of 40 miles per hour recorded. No damage.
September 21 1998KarlNo damage. Winds of 44 miles per hour recorded.
November 6 1998MitchNo damage in Bermuda. Significant effects elsewhere ($6 billion damage and around 19,000 deaths), mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua.
September 21 1999GertPassed 135 miles east of Bermuda. Winds of 87 miles per hour recorded. As a result the Natural Arches in Tucker’s Town were damaged, roads flooded, power was cut to 11,000 homes, the Dolphin Quest facility at the Fairmont Southampton was destroyed (subsequently relocated to the Royal Naval Dockyard), and trees downed.
September 16 2000FlorencePassed 75 miles northwest of the island. Winds of 80 miles per hour recorded. No significant damage.
September 9 2001ErinClosest point was around 100 miles from the island. Caused minor damage including downed trees and coastal erosion.
October 11 2001KarenWinds on the island peaked at 100 miles per hour. Karen caused power loss at over 20,000 homes, damage to around 200 houses, loss of vegetation, and a few injuries.
September 30 2002KyleClosest point was 115 miles from the island. No damage.
September 5 2003FabianPeak wind speak of 164 mph, average 120 mph. Damage to infrastructure estimated at $300 million. Causeway destroyed. 4 deaths. 25,000 homes left without power.
September 26 2003JuanCame within 140 miles of Bermuda. Only effect was high winds. No damage.
September 8 2005NateCategory 1 hurricane. Closest point was 150 miles from the island. No damage. Island was only affected by high winds and showers.
October 25 2005WilmaClosest point of approach was around 350 miles from the island. Island affected by tropical storm force winds. Hardly any damage.
September 11 2006FlorenceEye passes 50 miles to the west of Bermuda. 90 mph winds knock out power at 25,000 homes and damage to the Causeway and around 10 houses.
August 22 2009BillMissed Bermuda by over 200 miles. Little impact other than power cuts at around 4,000 homes.
September 20 2010IgorWas a Category 3 hurricane but reduced to a Category 1 hurricane by the time it neared the island. Sustained winds of 90 mph. Little damage. Downed trees cut off power to 27,000 residents. Ordnance Island and King’s Square in St George flooded.
September 9 2012LesliePassed 130 miles east of Bermuda. Little impact other than 800 homes losing power.

Hurricane Fabian

Fabian hit Bermuda on September 5 2003 and was the most destructive hurricane the island had seen since 1926. The Category 3 hurricane scored a direct hit on the island with recorded wind speeds peaking at 164 miles per hour.

The hurricane developed from a tropical wave that formed off the western coast of Africa on August 25. This wave moved west towards the Cape Verde and two days later developed into a tropical depression.

By August 30 the system had attained Category 3 hurricane status. On August 31 it reached Category 4 status but September 4 had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane.

The Bermuda Weather Service issued a Hurricane Watch on the morning of September 4. This was upgraded to a Hurricane Warning in the afternoon. Government offices and schools were closed and businesses sent workers home. Cruise ships left the island and all flights were cancelled.

On September 5 islanders awoke to a beautiful sunrise. It was just the calm before the storm. Light showers began just after 8 am. By 9.30 am wind speeds had reached 40 miles per hour and the first thunderstorm was reported.

Wind speeds peaked in the late afternoon with average wind speeds of 120 miles per hour and a peak wind speed of 164 miles per hour. The lowest air pressure was recorded at 5.30 pm, indicating the closest point of approach of the eye. Air pressure began to rise at 6 pm as the eye moved away from the island. By 11 pm wind speeds in Bermuda had dropped to tropical storm force.

Fabian caused significant damage to the island. Tragically, it was also responsible for four deaths. A car with three police officers stalled on the Causeway, the bridge linking the main Bermuda Island to St David’s Island. A civilian was stranded in a second car behind them. Waves washed the vehicles into the sea, despite valiant attempts to save them. Fabian became the first hurricane to cause loss of life in Bermuda since 1926.

The hurricane caused significant damage to vegetation. Thousands of invasive casuarina trees at golf courses and elsewhere were lost, although endemic trees like Bermuda cedars and palmettos faired extremely well. The infrastructure of the island was also hit hard. Sections of the South Road in Hamilton Parish and Smith’s Parish were torn up, 25,000 homes lost power, and many buildings were damaged. Fabian also destroyed the Natural Arches at Tucker’s Town, finishing off the work started by Hurricane Gert in 1999.

Hurricane Categories

Bermuda uses the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale to classify hurricanes. Each category is exponentially more destructive than the previous. A category 2 hurricane has the potential for 10 times more destruction than a category 1 storm.

CategorySustained Wind Speeds (mph)Likely Damage
174 - 95Minimal. No significant damage to well-built permanent buildings and structures. Trees, temporary/mobile structures and street furniture may sustain damage.
296 - 110Moderate. Likely results include uprooted trees, power outages, some damage to poorly constructed roofs, windows, and doors.
3111 - 129Extensive. Will probably result in uprooted trees, shore erosion, floods, power outages, and some structural damage to smaller buildings.
4130 - 156Extreme. Will probably result in severe shore erosion, extensive flooding, uprooting of many trees, and possible roof failure on smaller buildings.
5157 and greaterCatastrophic. Will probably cause major flooding, uprooting of many trees, severe shore erosion, extensive power outages, severe damage to coastal structures, complete roof failure on many industrial and residential buildings

Cruise Ships

The chances of actually being caught in a hurricane while on a cruise ship are extremely remote. With modern technology it’s possible to monitor hurricanes in real time and predict their paths with reasonable accuracy. Ships will usually alter itinerary and avoid the storm completely. Even if the hurricane makes a radical and unexpected change in direction, there shouldn’t be any problems. Cruise ships can travel much faster than the speed at which hurricanes typically move.

In recent years changes in itinerary have meant that ships scheduled to visit Bermuda have been rerouted to the Bahamas or ports in Canada. Cancelled cruises are rare and only usually happen when the hurricane is threatening the port of embarkation. If the cruise is cancelled you will get a refund, though compensation for changes in itinerary may be limited to refunds of passenger taxes.

Advice for Residents

Before a Hurricane

Residents of Bermuda should take the following measures before a hurricane strikes.

  • Monitor reliable sources of information such as the Emergency Broadcast Station (100.1 MHz) and the website of the Bermuda Weather Service.
  • Protect windows with sheets of plywood. A longer term solution would be to install storm shutters. Companies supplying them include Island Glass, Baptiste, and TreeCon.
  • Block gutters to prevent debris contaminating your water tank.
  • Fill your scooter and/or car with gas, and move them to a safe place.
  • Get cash from an ATM.
  • Make arrangements for your pets in case you need to go to the one of the official government hurricane shelters.
  • Move garden furniture, barbeques, garbage cans and any other lose objects indoors. Take down satellite dishes and antennas if possible. Tie down anything you can’t move.
  • Ensure a sufficient supply of water, if necessary filling bathtubs and sinks.
  • Prepare an emergency kit that includes batteries, a flashlight, radio, gas stove, candles, lanterns, a fire extinguisher, can opener, a first aid kit, canned goods, powdered milk etc. This should really be prepared before any indication of a storm. A portable generator is also a good idea, but don’t use it indoors. Most items can be purchased from Gorham’s.
  • Charge your laptop and mobile phone.
  • Take an inventory of all electronic equipment and valuable items for insurance purposes, recording model and serial numbers. Move anything of value off the floor in case of flooding. Store important documents in a waterproof container.
  • Set your fridge/freezer to its coldest setting.
  • Turn off gas cylinders, TV etc. just before the storm hits.

You may be directed or seek refuge in one of the official government hurricane shelters. The shelters are:

Shelters open up during the warning stages of the hurricane. Persons seeking shelter should take 3 – 4 days supply of food that doesn’t require cooking, water, bedding, a change of clothes, car keys, cash, credit cards, passports and other important documents. Before you leave your house or apartment, unplug appliances, and turn off the electric, gas, and water supplies.

The shelters do not accept pets. If you can’t find alternative accommodation leave them indoors with plenty of water and food.


  • Brace inward opening external doors by wedging a chair or other object against the door knob.
  • Stay indoors at all times, away from windows and doors, unless evacuation is unavoidable. If the roof begins to fail, seek shelter in an inner room and shield yourself with a mattress.
  • Do not call BELCO (955) to report a power outage. There’s nothing they can do about it during the storm. Call only in the event of threatening situations such as a downed power line. They are able to switch power off on the line concerned from their central control room.
  • Stay tuned to Emergency Broadcast Station.

Photograph of a hurricane hitting the island of Bermuda

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