Bertha hovers near Bermuda

Sunday, July 13th 2008, 8:59 am
By: News 9

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Slow-moving Bertha barely clung to hurricane status as it hovered near Bermuda early Sunday, and forecasters said it could weaken to tropical storm status by the end of the day.

The Bermuda Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning as Bertha's outer bands were expected to brush the island in the coming days.

Most tourists chose to hang out in pools and walk along the beach instead of battle the stronger surf and rip currents along Bermuda's southern coast. Signs have been posted announcing that beaches are closed.

"You can go out and swim if you like, but lifeguards will not come out and get you," said Darnell Joell, a bartender at Coco Reef resort.

Lifeguards at Horseshoe Beach blocked the shoreline with bright red tape and turned tourists away. Many lingered, however, taking pictures of the crashing waves.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was barely a Category 1 hurricane and remained at a near standstill early Sunday about 220 miles (355 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda. Even forecasters hit a lull: "After a week or so ... I am running out of things to say about Bertha," read one official report.

The center said Bertha was expected to resume its northward drift in the coming days, passing southeast of Bermuda, kicking up surf and dumping 2-4 inches of rain on the island. The center's hurricane tracking map showed Bertha sideswiping Bermuda on Monday, a day later than earlier forecasts.

About 5 a.m. Sunday, Bertha had maximum sustained winds of about 75 mph (120 kph) with some higher gusting.

Rain had already started falling at Elbow Beach by midday on Saturday, driving tourists away.

But many remained largely unconcerned.

"It's not really going to hit that hard," said Eilif Kenny, 21, who is visiting from Ireland. "If it was, I'd go stay in the holiday apartment, and I'd be under the bed."

Bertha became the Atlantic season's first hurricane on July 7 and has vacillated between a Category 1 and 2 storm.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Elida formed off Mexico's Pacific coast Saturday.

The hurricane center says Elida, the fifth tropical storm of the Pacific season, has sustained winds of nearly 60 mph (95 kph), with higher gusts.

Around 2 a.m. Sunday, Elida was located about 250 miles (405 kilometers) southwest of Acapulco and was traveling west-northwest at near 16 mph (26 kmh).

The center said Elida could become a hurricane on Sunday or Monday, but is expected to remain well south of the Mexican coast over the next two days.

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)