Bermuda braces for direct hit from 'Nicole,' a Cat 2 storm

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Authorities in Bermuda closed schools and government offices on Wednesday as the British territory prepared for a direct hit from Hurricane Nicole.

The Category 2 storm was expected to strengthen a bit before striking the island on Thursday morning.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nicole was located about 270 miles (435 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda on Wednesday afternoon. It had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (155 kph) and was moving north at 8 mph (13 kph).

LINK: Track Nicole on

Wind and rain were already increasing as business owners boarded up their store fronts and placed sandbags outside. Grocery stores were packed as people did last-minute shopping for hurricane supplies. One store owner said that he had already sold half of his generators.

Crews at one marina were still lifting boats, although the majority of vessels were already neatly packed away between historical buildings in Mangrove Bay, a popular spot for water activities in the island's northwest tip.

American Airlines and Air Canada are among several that have canceled flights to the island, and several cruise ships have canceled trips as well.

While Bermuda has sturdy infrastructure and is accustomed to storms, government officials urged people to prepare for the hurricane and remain indoors.

"Please stay off the roads," said Erica Rance Mill, chairwoman of Bermuda's Road Safety Council. "Hurricane Nicole is going to make the weather and road conditions very dangerous, and I would urge people not to take risks."

The hurricane is kicking up heavy surf in islands south of Bermuda including Puerto Rico, where authorities said they were looking for the body of a surfer who disappeared on Tuesday. He was identified as 37-year-old Gabriel Pantoja.

LINK: Track Nicole on