Hurricane Felix battered Bermuda for a second day yesterday, forcing postponement of a long-awaited referendum on independence but causing no casualties. The vote on whether to break away from Britain was rescheduled for today if the storm abated but, with several roads cut, the referendum remained in doubt.
Amazingly, several people turned up at locked polling stations yesterday, while the tail end of the storm was still unleashing 70mph winds.
The causeway road between the capital, Hamilton, and the international airport was cut by floods. Wind and rain kept visibility at nil, almost 24 hours after the first storm winds hit. The centre of Felix missed the islands by 40 miles, but yesterday the North Carolina authorities declared a state of emergency along the coast and ordered the evacuation of two islands as the hurricane headed for the US eastern seaboard.
Felix brushed Bermuda at dusk on Monday, felling trees, blocking roads and wrecking evacuated holiday apartments. The hurricane peaked at around 2am yesterday but continuing gusts, driving rain and ocean surge kept the islands cut off yesterday. Fallen power lines forced local television and radio stations off the air.
Some banks, bars and restaurants began reopening yesterday afternoon, but police asked "sightseers" to stay at home after several people had been swept from low-lying roads. No one was reported harmed.
Damage appeared to be in the millions of dollars but was expected to be far less than the $55m (pounds 34m) caused by Hurricane Emily in 1987. The Prime Minister, Sir John Swan, who favours independence for Britain's oldest colony and called the referendum, said a higher state of readiness as a result of the Emily experience had limited casualties and damage.