Wild winds of change worry Bermudians

Phil Davison in Hamilton says Hurricane Felix may do more than disrupt the independence poll

Bermuda's motto is Quo fata ferunt (Where the fates will lead us). Not for the first time, the fate of the islands today is inextricably linked with Atlantic storms as Hurricane Felix disrupts their referendum on whether to break away from Britain.

Emergency services said last night that Felix would arrive earlier than expected, with the first powerful hurricane winds hitting at 6pm local time, 10pm British time, and the worst onslaught arriving at midnight. Fast winds already caused destruction late yesterday, ripping light roofs off small buildings, uprooting trees and blocking some roads. An elderly couple, Peggy and Toby Davis, had a narrow escape when a 65 foot pine tree was blown on to their bedroom roof, sending rubble from the roof onto Mrs Davis bed .

"I thought it was a bomb," Mrs Davis, 79, said. "I was in the kitchen. I had just come back from delivering meals on wheels to the less fortunate," she said. "Toby was in the bathroom filling the tub because of the expected power cuts. If this had happened at night, I'd almost certainly have been killed."

At a meeting of the island's emergency services late yesterday afternoon, premier Sir John Swann said he hoped the independence referendum could go ahead but as the ocean surged, blocking several roads, it looked increasingly dangerous for Bermudians to venture out.

One of the areas worst hit by pounding waves was the Pink Beach area in the wealthy Tuckers Town. The waves pounded over the main coast roads, making it impassable. and police warned residents to stay away

The advance winds scattered debris and tree branches across roads, but most of the island's houses appeared top be weathering the initial storm failry well. Most are made of concrete blocks or tough Bermuda limestone. Bermudians collect their drinking water from their limestone roofs.

At Mermaid Beach yesterday afternoon, three colourful parrots in a cage pined as massive waves surged over the rocks outside the Mermaid gift shop, now deserted, where they are usually a tourist attraction.

It was an earlier hurricane that led to the islands' settlement and eventual British colonisation in the first place. In 1609 a group of English merchants led by Sir George Somers waded ashore here after their ship the Sea Venture was wrecked en route to the new settlements in Virginia. Unlike the Spaniards who discovered the islands a century earlier, some of the Englishmen stayed, pleasantly puzzled by the fact that the uninhabited islands were alive with tasty pigs.

The Spaniards had left two pairs of pigs behind as potential sustenance if ever forced to stop off on the way back from the Americas. Hence, the islands' early coins carried the image of a hog rather than of the English monarch.

As Felix bore down on the islands last night at the remarkably slow pace of nine miles per hour Sir John, who pushed the independence idea through parliament, said the referendum could not be formally postponed without legislation. He said polling stations would try to open their doors as a legal formality, even if they had to close and reopen in future days to complete a full 11 hours of scheduled voting time.

In practice, Sir John's attempt to keep the vote on track could cause chaos. Polling was supposed to start at 10am today but the thought of venturing out to vote in 125 mph winds seemed ludicrous, if not hazardous.

Although the eye of the storm appeared likely to pass 40 miles west of the islands, its surrounding winds stretched 100 miles to each side, meaning the entire 20-mile-long island strip might bear the brunt. In Bermuda, you're never more than a mile from the sea, meaning the entire shoreline could be battered from the western Dockyard area, where the Royal Navy used to be based, to the millionaires' playground of Tuckers Town in the east.

The direction of the hurricane's rotation also meant its north-eastern corner - the part likely to hit Bermuda - would be its most powerful.

Offices, businesses, ferries and harbours closed down at noon yesterday as the hurricane's advance winds arrived with driving rain. Dramatic surf surged over beaches such as Horseshoe Bay on the southern shore. In Ye Olde Cock and Feather pub on Hamilton's central Front Street, the few tourists who had opted not to leave knocked back "Hurricane Felix shots" - Southern Comfort, grenadine and milk - at three dollars a go while the voice of Bob Marley repeatedly told them to "don't worry 'bout a thing". Bermuda International Airport closed down at 11am yesterday.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary Teacher Great Yarmouth

£115 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are currently work...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Special Needs Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

PMLD Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leiceste...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes