Bermuda braces for Paulette while Sally threatens Gulf Coast

Paulette is expected to approach Bermuda as a hurricane Sunday and will be near the island Sunday night into Monday.
Paulette is expected to approach Bermuda as a hurricane Sunday and will be near the island Sunday night into Monday. (NOAA)

MIAMI, Fla. – Residents of Bermuda were urged to prepare to protect life and property ahead of Hurricane Paulette, while Tropical Storm Sally threatened to intensify into a hurricane as it approached the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center was predicting that Paulette would approach Bermuda as a hurricane Sunday and would be near the island Sunday evening into Monday. A prolonged period of strong winds, storm surge, and heavy rainfall is expected Sunday evening, and a hurricane warning is in effect for the island.

Swells produced by Paulette are affecting portions of the Leeward Islands, the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the east coast of the United States. These swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, cautioned the NHC.

Bermuda’s government announced that L.F. Wade International Airport would close Sunday evening, and government buildings would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. It opened several shelters for evacuees.

Paulette had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph as the system moved along a curved course toward Bermuda, forecasters said. The biggest threats were strong winds, storm surge, up to 6 inches of rain and life-threatening surf and rip currents.

The storm was 240 miles southeast of the territory Sunday and was moving northwest at 14 mph. It’s the strongest in terms of winds of six disturbances the center was tracking in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

New Orleans and surrounding areas, meanwhile, were in the crosshairs of Sally, which was expected to become a hurricane on Monday and reach shore by early Tuesday - bringing hurricane conditions to a region stretching from from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Tropical storm conditions were expected in the region by Monday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Saturday, and officials in the New Orleans area issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas outside of levee protection.

The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with higher gusts, forecasters said.

Storm surge from Sally was forecast to reach dangerous levels, due in part to the tide. Up to 11 feet of water was predicted from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including Lake Borgne.

A slow moving storm, Sally could produce rain totals up to 20 inches by the middle of the week, forecasters said.