Hurricane Dean heads for the Caribbean

Airports closed, coastal hotels were evacuated and tourists hunkered down in shelters as powerful Hurricane Dean bore down on the eastern Caribbean.

Hurricane Dean heads for the Caribbean
Airports closed, coastal hotels were evacuated and tourists hunkered down in shelters as powerful Hurricane Dean bore down on the eastern Caribbean.

The first hurricane of the Atlantic season was a large and dangerous storm, packing 100 mph winds late Thursday as it neared the islands of Martinique, Dominica and St. Lucia, where authorities urged people to stay indoors and out of danger.

In a region accustomed to rough weather, islanders stocked up on essentials and taped glass windows but conditions ahead of the storm were deceptively calm and even some locals said it was hard to believe that danger loomed out at sea.

Martinique resident Patrice Labamar who was camping on the beach with his wife and two children waited until the last minute to finally clear out, hoping the forecasters might be wrong about the storm's trajectory.

"Our vacation is over," Labamar said as they headed for safety.

The Category 2 hurricane, which had hovered far out a sea for days, was expected to begin passing over the islands of the Lesser Antilles early Friday, then intensify as it enters the warm waters of the Caribbean — heading toward Jamaica.

It was too early to tell whether the storm would eventually strike the United States, but officials were gearing up for the possibility of the season's most severe storm yet.

"It's so far out, but it's not too early to start preparing," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

St. Lucia's acting prime minister, Stephenson King, announced that the country's two commercial airports were closing Thursday night as the storm's outer bands began moving through the islands. Martinique's main airport was also closed.

"We may not be spared on this occasion as it appears that we are likely to experience the worst," King said.

About 300 American medical students from Dominica's Ross University were stranded at the island's airport Thursday until family members hired private planes, said Dr. Mauricio Gomez, from the UCLA Medical Center in California, whose fiancee was among the students. Most arrived in Puerto Rico to await flights on Friday bound for the United States, Gomez said.

Hotels in Dominica and Martinique moved tourists from seaside rooms.

At the Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, on Dominica's Atlantic coast, about 18 guests spent Thursday night in a reinforced steel-and-concrete shelter, hotel spokeswoman Laura Ell said.

"Everyone's very calm but taking it seriously," she said.

Martinique officials set up cots at schoolhouse shelters while residents lined up at gas stations and emptied supermarket shelves.

"It's the first time I've seen this, all our water supply completely gone in less than two hours," said Jean Claude, a supermarket manager.

The government also canceled commemoration events planned for the 152 Martinique residents who died in a plane crash a year ago.

In St. Lucia, radio and television advisories urged people to stock up on canned food and fill their cars with gasoline. Volunteers knocked on doors to make sure people knew about the storm.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Dean would likely be a dangerous Category 3 hurricane by the time it reaches the central Caribbean. Forecasters say it appeared to be heading south of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola.

As it approaches the Mexican resort town of Cancun, on the Yucatan Peninsula, on Tuesday it could be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, the hurricane center said.

It predicted storm surge flooding at 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels near the center of Dean as it passes over the Lesser Antilles and total possible rainfalls of 7 inches in mountainous areas.

At 2 a.m. EDT, Dean was centered 85 miles southeast of Martinique and 90 miles northwest of Barbados. It had top sustained winds of 100 mph, up from 90 mph earlier in the day.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the islands of St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and St. Maarten, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Water-logged Texas dealt with the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, which dropped up to 7 inches of rain in parts of San Antonio and Houston. Officials throughout central and southern Texas braced for the possibility of 10 to 15 inches of rain by Friday morning.

At least two people died Thursday in Erin's thunderstorms.

Shell Oil Co. evacuated 188 people this week from offshore facilities in Erin's path and said Thursday it was already monitoring Dean.

AP
Last Mod: 17 Ağustos 2007, 11:54
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