Cristobal gains strength as it heads toward Bermuda

 Cristobal gains strength as it heads toward Bermuda

Hurricane Cristobal moved slowly toward Bermuda after drenching Atlantic and Caribbean islands with heavy rains, causing flooding that officials blamed for at least five deaths.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane would likely avoid a collision with the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, but it was generating life-threatening surf and rip current conditions from central Florida to North Carolina.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, and it was expected to pass northwest of Bermuda on Wednesday, and strengthen slightly by Thursday. Late Tuesday, it was centered 415 miles west-southwest of Bermuda and was moving north at 15 mph. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 60 miles from the center.

Cristobal was expected to dump up to 4 inches of rain over Bermuda and lesser amounts over the already sodden Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.

Hotel owners and tourist operators in Bermuda were upset about the forecast, noting that August already has been one of the rainiest months in recent history for the British island territory.

«It’s been a ridiculous, endless amount of rain,» said Marlie Powell, owner of the Kingston House Bed & Breakfast. «It’s the height of our tourist season, so it’s not a happy thing.»

Turks and Caicos officials said flights resumed Tuesday at the islands’ international airport, which closed as the hurricane dumped some 12 inches of rain on the islands. The governor’s office reported one death after recovering a body from floodwaters on the main island of Providenciales.

«The situation on North Caicos is extremely serious,» said Premier Rufus Ewing, who visited the island on Tuesday. «The flood water in some areas is perhaps 1,000 feet across and up to 5 feet deep in places.»

The government said in a statement that it was debating whether to pump out floodwaters or use bulldozers to create new routes to reach some communities. Government offices on North Caicos remained closed.

In addition to the person who died in Turks and Caicos, floodwaters killed two men in the Dominican Republic and two people in Haiti, where roughly 640 families were left temporarily homeless.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Hurricane Marie was weakening over colder water off Mexico’s Pacific coast, though it was still generating large, dangerous swells that were nearing the beaches of Southern California.

The hurricane’s sustained winds had decreased to near 90 mph from a peak of 160 mph on Sunday. It was expected to slump to tropical storm force on Wednesday. Marie was centered about 740 miles west of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula and moving northwest near 14 mph.