HAMILTON, Bermuda – Tourists postponed holidays in Bermuda and locals stocked up on emergency supplies as Hurricane Leslie slowly approached the wealthy British Atlantic territory on Thursday.
Hotel cancellations have been reported across the territory, which is popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.
Leslie's center was forecast to pass to the east of Bermuda on Sunday morning, possibly as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of nearly 105 mph (165 kph).
On Thursday, it was barely moving northward at about 2 mph (4 kph) over open ocean, centered some 430 miles (695 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to intensify on Friday.
South shore beaches were closed as the approaching storm whipped up surf and residents stocked up on food, propane, tarp, flashlights and water.
"It's great to see people are not waiting until the last minute. We only have three empty shopping carts left at the moment," said Henry Durham, the boss at Gorham's hardware store.
Some were relatively unfazed since the territory enforces strict building codes to withstand rough weather. Homes must be built with walls at least 8 inches thick and be able to withstand 150 mph wind gusts. Many power and phone lines run underground.
British software developer Toby Crawford and thousands of other expatriate workers in Bermuda gradually got ready for the hurricane's pounding rains and driving winds.
"The landlord assures me we have a very sturdy roof," said Crawford, who moved to Bermuda from London a year ago with his wife, Michelle. "I'm looking forward to it, having not experienced one before."
Michelle Crawford said the couple will do their best to combat boredom while being confined to their apartment in Pembroke, near the capital of Hamilton.
"I have to admit we've opted for the alcohol route as well. We've heard that people have hurricane parties, but so far Toby and I are just planning to hole up at our house with books, board games and wine," she said.
On Wednesday, when Leslie was forecast to nearly make a direct hit, National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief urged all residents to "prepare for the worst."
Swells from Leslie have been affecting Bermuda, the U.S. East Coast, the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip currents.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Michael on Thursday strengthened to a Category 3 storm, the first of the Atlantic hurricane season.
It was not a threat to land and was spinning over open ocean about 980 miles (1,580 kilometers) west-southwest of the Azores.