Bermuda braces itself for 'extremely dangerous' Hurricane Nicole
Heavy wind and rain are battering Bermuda as the British territory braces itself for Hurricane Nicole, which has strengthened to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm as it tracks towards the island in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said hurricane hunter aircraft show that Nicole's maximum sustained winds have increased to 130mph.
The storm was about 180 miles south-south-west of Bermuda, moving north-north-east at 12mph.
Little change in strength is expected overnight, but forecasters expect Nicole to pick up speed and pass near or over Bermuda on Thursday.
Schools and government offices closed as shops and filling stations reported brisk business ahead of the storm, with people buying batteries, matches, alcohol and ready-cooked meals.
Hotels reported a rise in bookings as people sought shelters with power.
While Bermuda has sturdy infrastructure and is accustomed to storms, government officials urged people to prepare for the hurricane and remain indoors on Thursday, when the storm is expected to hit.
"We have a long night in front of us," premier Michael Dunkley said. "We better be prepared for the onslaught of hurricane force winds, but if we heed the warnings, we will be in a strong position once the storm blows through."
Businesses were largely boarded up by Wednesday night, and dozens of vessels from one marina were already neatly packed away between historical buildings in Mangrove Bay, a popular spot for water activities on Bermuda's north-west tip.
American Airlines and Air Canada were among several carriers that cancelled flights to the island, and several cruise ships also cancelled.