"We have already been under the effects of Rafael this morning as the first rain band swept across the area bringing rainfall to much of the island," she said. "Fortunately, Rafael's strongest winds remain on the eastern side of the system and furthest away from Bermuda."
Seas around the island's outer reefs are expected to surge to 18 feet (5 meters) late Tuesday, she said.
Among those bracing for the storm was 38-year-old Chris Shallcross, a senior software developer who moved to the island from Britain about two weeks ago.
"I haven't done much to prepare, except buy some waterproofs because it looks like it might be a bit wet and windy," Shallcross said. "I hope that's not the naivety of a newbie to the island."
Public schools and government offices remained open on Tuesday, while at least eight flights were cancelled and several others rescheduled. Most of the local ferry service was suspended as well.
National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief urged people to go straight home after work.
"Rafael is expected to bring storm force winds and rough seas," he said. "I urge the public to exercise caution and remain indoors."
The center of Rafael was expected to reach its closest point to Bermuda around 8 p.m. ADT (23:00 GMT) Tuesday, at more than 100 miles to the east-southeast.
Richard Naud, a software developer from Quebec City who moved to Bermuda in early September, said he hadn't prepared for the storm and didn't learn of its approach until Sunday.
"Since I heard no one talk about it, I figured it was not worth having a panic attack," he said.