HAMILTON, Bermuda – Tourists postponed holidays in Bermuda and locals stocked up on emergency supplies as a stalled Hurricane Leslie spun over the open Atlantic south of this wealthy British territory Thursday night.
Hotel cancellations were reported across the territory, which is popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.
Bermuda's Weather Service issued a storm watch late Thursday afternoon. The Category 1 storm was expected spin in place through the night about 430 miles (690 kilometers) south-southeast of the storm-hardened British enclave. It had sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Leslie was expected to intensify Friday and begin to drift northward. Its 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).
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 manager at Gorham's hardware store.
Some people weren't very worried, because the territory enforces strict building codes to withstand rough weather. Homes must be built with walls at least eight inches thick and be able to withstand 150 mph wind gusts. Many power and phone lines are 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 would 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.
National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief urged all residents to complete their storm preparations by Friday, when the territory's schools would be closed.
"We heard from the Bermuda Weather Service that Leslie continues to be a highly unpredictable storm and that the forecast track and intensity could vary during the next 72 hours so we must all pay close attention to the official updates," Perinchief said.
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.
Out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael weakened from a Category 3 storm to a Category 2, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) by late Thursday. Earlier in the day, it had become the first Category 3 of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Michael was moving northward at 5 mph (7 kph) over the open ocean and was not a threat to land. It was about 930 miles (1,495 kilometers) west-southwest of the Azores.