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Leslie rain, winds buffet Bermuda

Sunday, September 09, 2012 | 1:14 PM    

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Tropical Storm Leslie's outer bands buffeted Bermuda with gusty winds and steady rain today as its centre slipped past the wary British enclave on a path that could take it to Canada's Newfoundland.

The government announced that the L F Wade International Airport would be closed until at least 3:00pm due to tropical storm winds. Major airlines already had cancelled flights to the British Atlantic territory of about 65,000 inhabitants.

With satellite images showing the large tropical storm's outer bands dwarfing the tiny territory, all bus and sea ferry services were halted and schools were ordered closed to students on Monday, though teachers and principals were still expected to report to their jobs.

Many roads were littered with tree branches and other debris. The Bermuda Electric Light Company said there have been five scattered power outages impacting hundreds of customers since the storm began impacting the grouping of islands.

But with a direct strike from Leslie's centre growing less likely the territory's government decided not to open an emergency shelter. Earlier in the week, it had been forecast to be a Category 2 hurricane as it passed Bermuda.

Most residents of Bermuda, a financial haven and tourist destination, about 600 miles off the US East Coast, were taking the fast-moving outer bands of the passing storm in stride. The territory has tough building codes and its people are used to strong storms.

"It's an excuse for a lazy day at home," said Natasha Hector, a resident of Bermuda's Southhampton parish who is originally from Oxfordshire, England.

Visiting London resident Philippa Raven said she was enjoying watching the storm from her friends' hilltop home.

James Dodgson, a forecaster for the Bermuda Weather Service, cautioned that even with the storm's centre likely to stay well offshore, there would be a chance of some flooding. He said a probable small storm surge of one or two feet could combine with high tide to cause minor flooding in low-lying areas.

Bermuda was forecast to receive between two to four inches of rain from Leslie.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said the storm weakened slightly early Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph), below the hurricane threshold of 74 mph (120 kph).

Some strengthening was forecast over the next two days and Leslie could regain hurricane strength on Monday over open ocean before a possible strike on Newfoundland and perhaps even Iceland toward the end of the week.

Meanwhile, far out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael weakened to a Category 1 storm, with maximum sustained winds of about 90 mph (150 kph), and was not considered any threat to land. For a few hours Thursday, it was the first Category 3 of the Atlantic hurricane season.

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