September 6, 2003 --
The most powerful hurricane in 50 years blasted across Bermuda yesterday, pummeling the Atlantic island with 120 mph winds that snapped palm trees like toothpicks and turned tranquil blue waters into restless 10-foot-high whitecaps.
"It's terrific to watch but it's still intimidating," said vacationer Susan Chandler, 52, of Manhattan, who decided to stay and witness Hurricane Fabian unleash its wrath on the wealthy British colony.
"There's so much sea-spray in the harbor now it looks like it's snowing," she said.
Mayor Bloomberg's $9 million dollar vacation mansion in Tuckers Town, the most exclusive area of the island, also took a bruising.
Although building codes require homes to withstand sustained winds up to 120 mph, it was not known how much damage was done to the mayor's waterfront property.
Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also have homes there.
The Bermuda Regiment, the island's part-time army, was put on alert. Radio and television stations went off the air. Phone service was erratic and hospitals were relying on generators. No serious injuries from the storm were reported.
Fabian stomped across the western part of Bermuda earlier causing power outages that knocked out electricity in at least 25,000 homes. "We expect massive outages," Bermuda Electric Light Co. spokeswoman Linda Smith said.
Homes and hotels were boarded up and most tourists took the last flights before the airport was shut down.
The 62,000 residents of the offshore financial center and tourist playground battened down their homes and readied for the worst.
"We are getting hammered. It's pretty unbelievable," said Jackie Brisson, reached by telephone at her home about 100 yards inland.
"At the property in front of us, the yard is three feet under water and the sea wall is collapsing. The waves are coming over the roofs of the houses. It's just terrible here." said Leah Cerconi, 25, a teacher who just moved to Bermuda from Hartford, Conn. She said she and her boyfriend went out on their mopeds to try to see the large waves.
"It was so windy we turned around," said Cerconi, who was staying at the Fairmont Hotel, where water was leaking from the ceiling.
"We've come up with a Fabian cocktail for our guests," said manager Paul Torney. "The drinks will have umbrellas turned inside out," he quipped.
Meteorologists said the storm could dump 5 to 10 inches of rain, causing severe flooding.
Bermuda hasn't been hit this hard since 1953, when Hurricane Edna lashed the mid-Atlantic island with 115 mph winds. With Post Wire Services