Tropical Storm Gert strengthens in Atlantic

People in Bermuda installed storm shutters and hauled their boats onto beaches in preparation for Tropical Storm Gert, which slowly strengthened Sunday over the Atlantic as it approached the wealthy British archipelago.

A tropical storm warning was is in effect for Bermuda, though the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Gert's center was still about 215 miles (345 kilometers) south-southeast from the isolated island chain.

Gert, the seventh tropical storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph) and had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph). The storm, which formed Sunday afternoon, could get stronger as it makes its way toward Bermuda.

U.S. forecasters said Gert's center was expected to pass near or just east of Bermuda by Monday afternoon. It is projected to remain well away from the U.S. East Coast.

"We're gearing up for a windy night and perhaps some showers, but we should fare pretty well up here," said Jeff Torgerson, a meteorologist with the Bermuda Weather Service.

Steven and Eileen Chapman, of the south London borough of Croydon, which was impacted by last week's riots across England, said the tropical storm would not crimp their vacation to Bermuda with their two boys.

"It seems very peaceful in Bermuda in comparison to Croydon," said Steven Chapman, who has visited Bermuda 14 times before. "We're not concerned about the storm. The hotel has not advertised it as a major concern."

Most residents of Bermuda, where basic storm preparations are a familiar routine, were also taking it in stride.

"Right now it's a baby. We're paying attention to it, but people here don't get worked up about storms this size," said Francis Mahoney of Bermuda Yacht Services, a provider of emergency marine services.

Bermuda requires newly built houses to withstand sustained winds of 110 mph (177 kph). It also has a sturdy infrastructure with many of its power and phone lines underground.

Below Gert, a trough of low pressure located some 425 miles (684 kilometer) north-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands is generating some showers and thunderstorms.

U.S. forecasters said Sunday afternoon that this system has about a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next two days. It was moving west-northwest at about 15 mph (24 kph), according to the Hurricane Center.


Associated Press writer David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica, contributed to this report.