HAMILTON, Bermuda - Bermuda residents spoke of their relief and began a major clear-up Saturday after Hurricane Gonzalo spared the Atlantic archipelago from catastrophic damage, despite scoring a direct hit.
Gonzalo slammed into Bermuda as a strong category two storm on Friday, knocking down trees, damaging a hospital and cutting power to most of the island's 65,000 residents.
"All in all, we came out of this storm much better than we expected," Bermuda's Premier Michael Dunkley said in a broadcast.
Bermuda "took a licking" from Gonzalo, he said, but praised residents for effectively preparing for the storm and for staying in their homes.
There were no immediate reports of fatalities.
"We are a bit bruised. But we will recover from this," Dunkley said in his remarks, which were reported by The Royal Gazette newspaper.
Gonzalo, which killed one person and caused property damage in the Caribbean, buffeted the British overseas territory with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles (175 kilometers) per hour, forecasters said.
"Bermuda was very lucky," resident Deborah Titterton-Narraway told AFP, adding that Gonzalo "should have caused more damage."
"But the structure of our homes, built of concrete brick and limestone, enabled them to withstand the winds... it could have been so much worse." The community was pulling together to help families whose homes needed repair, Titterton-Narraway said.
Gonzalo blew down most of the avocadoes in trees dotting the island, leaving many residents with little to do as they waited for emergency services to clear the roads of debris but make guacamole and hold post-hurricane parties to celebrate their lucky escape.
"Bermuda made it through #Gonzalo ok! St. George's in the East has a few fallen trees & parts of roofs missing. Could be worse!" Bermuda resident Jessica Rowe said on Twitter.
Many major roads were open and despite some reported damage to the roof, the main hospital fared well, Dunkley said.
"As far as roads and infrastructure, we are in a much better position than many people might have thought," he added.
Storm threats recede
By 0300 GMT Sunday, a weakened Gonzalo was racing toward the coast of Canada's Newfoundland, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest forecast, warning of tropical storm conditions.
Forecasters were also keeping watch on Hurricane Ana and had issued a tropical storm warning for parts of Hawaii, although the NHC said it was expected to weaken below hurricane strength on Sunday night and did not represent a major threat.
Tropical Storm Trudy, which drenched portions of southern Mexico, was fizzling out.
Gonzalo had already been felt in the Virgin Islands, the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and portions of the Bahamas, as well as the southeastern coast of the United States.
The hurricane's only known victim so far was an octogenarian sailor killed in the Dutch territory of St Maarten.
Gonzalo was the seventh storm of the Atlantic season, which stretches from June to November.
Hurricane Cristobal left at least four people dead in late August when it thrashed the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominican Republic with heavy rains causing serious flooding.