Hamilton, Bermuda-Gusts of 100 miles an hour and driving rain buffeted Bermuda early Friday, leaving thousands without power and fearing coastal damage as Hurricane Fiona, a powerful Category 3 storm, slid past the Atlantic island. At 6:00 am local time (0900 GMT), Fiona’s center was located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of the British territory, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), which downgraded the storm to Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale in its latest advisory. Overnight, several areas reported power outages, with more than 7,000 people affected, according to the main electric utility. On Thursday, with hurricane warnings in effect and the NHC forecasting sustained winds at the center of the storm of more than 125 miles per hour -- with even higher gusts -- Bermuda residents said they were taking no chances. “This storm is going to be worse than the last one,” Richard Hartley, a store owner in the capital Hamilton told AFP as he and his wife covered the shop’s cedar-lined windows with metal sheets.

 Hurricane-force winds extend more than 70 miles from the storm’s eye, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 200 miles, the NHC said, predicting up to four inches (10 centimeters) of rain along with “large and destructive” waves and storm surge. The island of about 64,000 people is no stranger to hurricanes -- but it is also tiny, just 21 square miles (54 square kilometers), and one of the most remote places in the world, 640 miles from its closest neighbor, the United States. That means there is nowhere to evacuate to when a big storm hits. “You have to live with it because you live here, you can’t run anywhere because it’s just a little island,” said JoeAnn Scott, a shopworker in Hamilton.

Bermudians try to “enjoy it as it comes,” she said. “And pray and pray. That’s what we do, pray and party,” she added with a laugh. At Bermuda’s famed Horseshoe Bay Beach, where onlookers came to assess the pounding waves and stretch their legs ahead of a long night inside, resident Gina Maughan said the island would be ready.