compiled by Dee Finney


10 Dead in Cuba - 22 Dead in Haiti from Hurricane Dennis  7-8-05


1 Death so far in Grenada
4 dead in Jamaica
2 die in helicopter crash evacuating oil rigs in Gulf of Mexico

updated 9-29-05


The Natural Disaster Hotspots report released earlier this year showed that the 
U.S. Gulf Coast is among the world's most at-risk regions 
in terms of human mortality and economic loss due to storms like Katrina and Rita.

Two dead as hurricane lashes Central America coast
Thu May 19, 2005 
By Alberto Barrera

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (Reuters) - The first hurricane of the season rumbled toward Central America's Pacific coast on Thursday, killing two people and forcing thousands of people from their homes as it lashed the region with rain.

Hurricane "Adrian" was upgraded from a tropical storm on Thursday afternoon and threatened to cause flooding and mudslides in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

It was about 120 miles southwest of El Salvador's capital San Salvador with winds near 75 mph and higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

In Guatemala

two men were killed and two injured when a mudslide blamed on Adrian swallowed workers digging a ditch near the Mexico border, officials said.

"We are preparing for the worst," Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said as his country went on red alert.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed about 10,000 people in Central America, mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua, with mudslides and flooding.

A Category I hurricane, Adrian was expected to pick up pace before hitting El Salvador's coast on Thursday night.

Officials said 2,500 people were evacuated in El Salvador's capital and hundreds more were being evacuated along the coast as the storm dumped heavy rain and caused mudslides. President Tony Saca said the threat was "serious" but called for calm.

Some six to 10 inches of rain were expected in the region and as much as 20 inches in the mountains.

"The biggest threat from Adrian is the potential for torrential rainfall, which will likely produce flash flooding and potentially devastating mud slides over the mountainous terrain of Central America," the hurricane center said.

Guatemalan and Honduran authorities closed all schools for possible use as shelters and emergency services and prepared for evacuations.   

Guatemalan President Oscar Berger played down comparisons to Hurricane Mitch.

"This will not be like Mitch, we think we will have rains in coastal areas and some damage, but we are in a state of alert and ready to attend to the population," Berger said.

The National Hurricane Center has predicted that 11 to 15 tropical storms will form this season in the eastern Pacific, with six to eight expected to become hurricanes.

The last big storm to hit northern Central America was Hurricane Iris in 2001.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 10, 2005. 


By BILL KACZOR Associated Press Writer

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. Jun 10, 2005 — Tropical Storm Arlene drenched Cuba and parts of Florida on Friday, gaining strength and speed as its center moved north toward the U.S. Gulf Coast a region still recovering from last year's hurricanes.

Forecasters said Arlene, the Atlantic hurricane season's first named tropical storm, could become a weak hurricane before hitting the Deep South late Saturday, with the worst weather arriving earlier, east of the storm's center.

Arlene was then expected to move along the Mississippi-Alabama line, reaching Tennessee by Sunday afternoon.

Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches were posted from Florida to Louisiana, including New Orleans, as top sustained winds reached 60 mph, up from 45 mph earlier in the day.

The wind speed was likely to increase, but forecasters said the biggest impact would be heavy rain.

Mississippi officials urged residents in flood-prone areas to move to higher ground, and two large deepwater oil platforms off the Louisiana coast were evacuated.

In Pensacola Beach, where many residents are still living in government trailers because of damage from last year's Hurricane Ivan, residents eyed the forecast warily.

Margie Wassner, 57, said she planned to ride out Arlene with friends inland in Pensacola.

"It's pretty scary to me. I just kept hoping that we wouldn't have anything, but I don't know. It's awfully early in the year to be having this," she said.

The downpour that landed on Havana and the rest of western Cuba as Arlene passed the island's westernmost tip early Friday was welcome relief from the island's severe drought.

Flooding was possible, meteorologists said, and some schools were closed, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

Southern and central Florida could see tornadoes Friday and more than 7 inches of rain by midday Saturday. Beach erosion was also possible, with coastal storm surge flooding of 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels.

"This is going to be a major rainfall event before and ahead of the storm," said Trisha Wallace, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.

Arlene Hits Shore
Josh Pringle
Saturday, June 11, 2005

Tropical Depression Arlene is now soaking the U-S Gulf Coast.

The first named storm of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season weakened as it hit shore Saturday afternoon, but still packed enough punch that it brought sheets of rain, 20-foot waves and heavy wind.

The storm hit the same areas of the Florida Panhandle that was devastated by Hurricane Ivan nine months ago.

Officials say initial damage reports were minimal and about seven-thousand customers on the Gulf Coast lacked electricity Saturday afternoon.

A few Panhandle bridges were closed because of wind, and some flooding on Alabama's coastal highways was reported


Tropical Storm Arlene dumps up to five inches of rain

PENSACOLA, Fla. Tropical Storm Arlene drenched parts of the Florida Panhandle with up to five inches of rain before pushing north into Alabama.
The breezy rainstorm canceled flights and killed power to more than eleven-thousand customers. Dozens of people headed for public shelters.

With 60-mile-per-hour winds, Arlene didn't have much in common with Hurricane Ivan of nine months ago -- aside from the landfall location near the Florida-Alabama state line.

For people in Florida, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season came with a bonus from the state. Sunday was the final day to get a sales-tax break on storm supplies in Florida.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Hurricane Dennis Approaches Gulf of Mexico

By LEONARDO ALDRIDGE, Associated Press Writer

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

 (07-06) 17:35 PDT LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) --

Hurricane Dennis flooded roads in Haiti and Jamaica as it gained strength Wednesday and headed toward the Gulf of Mexico, pushing oil prices sharply higher as it became the second storm to threaten petroleum output.

A hurricane warning was posted for eastern Cuba including the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where some 520 terror suspects are detained. Forecasters also warned Dennis was on track for the Alabama-Florida coastline.

Some rural Jamaicans were cut off by floodwaters hours before the storm was to pass, and authorities planned to fly over the affected southeast area in a helicopter to search for stranded islanders.

Dennis came right behind Tropical Storm Cindy, which made landfall late Tuesday in Louisiana and hindered oil production and refining. Traders said that uncertainty over both storms helped to push oil prices to new highs. Crude oil for August delivery rose $1.69 to settle at $61.28 a barrel and establish a new record on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The previous closing high was $60.54 set June 27.

Packing sustained winds near 80 mph, the fourth storm of the Atlantic season could dump up to 12 inches of rain over mountains in its path, including Jamaica's coffee-producing Blue Mountains, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Last year three hurricanes — Frances, Ivan and Jeanne — tore through the Caribbean with a collective ferocity not seen in many years, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damages.

Inside the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the military prepared audio tapes in at least eight languages warning that a storm was coming and heavy steel shutters would be closed on some cell windows, said Col. Mike Bumgarner.

Military officials had no immediate plans to evacuate troops or detainees at Camp Delta, which is about 150 yards from the ocean but was built to withstand winds up to 90 mph, according to Navy Cmdr. Anne Reese, supervisor of camp maintenance and construction.

Power lines could be knocked down and roofs could be damaged on some older, wooden buildings, Reese said.

"It will be bad, but it's not going to be very destructive," she said.

Dennis grew into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday afternoon and threatened to hit Jamaica as a Category 2, the Hurricane Center said.

Meteorologist Chris Hennon said the quadrant threatening Haiti "is typically the worst part of the storm" in terms of wind strength and rains.

Haiti took the deadliest hit of last year's hurricane season when Jeanne, at the time a tropical storm, triggered flooding and mudslides: 1,500 people were killed, 900 missing and presumed dead and 200,000 left homeless.

Jeanne's torrential rains burst river banks and irrigation canals and unleashed mudslides that destroyed an estimated 24,700 acres of fertile land in Haiti. Looting and gang attacks on relief vehicles stretched U.N. peacekeepers trying to stabilize Haiti after the February 2004 rebellion that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Poverty-stricken Haitians said there was little they could do about the warnings this time.

"It's not only that we don't have money to prepare, we don't have money either to eat. We are willing to stay here and let whatever happens happen," said Martine Louis-Pierre, a 43-year-old mother of three selling fried food on a street of Port-au-Prince.

At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 280 miles south of the Kingston Jamaica, moving west-northwest near 13 mph, the Hurricane Center said. Hurricane-force winds stretched 25 miles.

Private forecaster AccuWeather has the storm tracking into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, with landfall Friday or Saturday on the Florida-Alabama border as a strong Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane, with winds from 96 mph to 130 mph.

Radio stations in Haiti and Jamaica warned people to stay away from rivers that could overflow their banks. Some southern roads in Haiti, which is dangerously deforested, already were blocked by flooding Wednesday.

Six small communities in the eastern Jamaica parish of St. Thomas were also cut off by flood waters, emergency management spokeswoman Nadene Newsome said.

Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson abandoned the final day of the annual Caribbean summit in St. Lucia, to rush home. Before leaving, he went on Jamaican national radio to say "I call upon every Jamaican and every community to be prepared ... to protect those who are infirm, the elderly and the young."


Associated Press Writers Ben Fox in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Stevenson Jacobs in Kingston, Jamaica, contributed to this report.

7-7-05 - Hurricane Dennis continues to strengthen in the Caribbean Sea. Hurricane Dennis is moving W/NW at 15 Mph with 90 Mph Winds. Continued Strengthening is forecast for Hurricane Dennis. A Hurricane warning is in effect for the SW peninsula of Hati from the Dominican Republic Border westward and for Jamaica, all of the Cayman Islands and portions of Eastern Cuba for the provinces of Granma.. Santiago De Cuba..Guantanamo.. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Portions of Eastern and Central Cuba for the Provinces of Las Tuna..Holguin.. Sancti Spritus.. Ciego De Avila.. Camaguey..
Posted on Thu, Jul. 07, 2005

Florida girds for Dennis; mass evacuations ordered in Keys

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - The refrain "here we go again" echoed Thursday from Key West to Pensacola as an intense Hurricane Dennis edged relentlessly closer to the state, provoking mass evacuations of the Florida Keys and concern along the Gulf Coast.

Still centered in the Caribbean, the major Category 3 hurricane swept Haiti and Jamaica with torrential rain and damaging wind. Warnings blanketed Cuba, where the forecast carried Dennis' powerful core diagonally through the island and close to Havana on Friday night.

Forecasters predicted deteriorating conditions in South Florida on Friday as Dennis' outer bands swing within reach. Gusty winds could exceed the 39-mph tropical storm threshold, 3 to 7 inches of rain could fall this weekend and Dennis could spawn tornadoes.

Hurricane warnings and watches were issued for the Keys, a tropical storm watch covered Miami-Dade County, and a flood watch could be imposed on much of South Florida.

"This is a very dangerous hurricane and people in the warning areas must listen very carefully to the advice of emergency managers," said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County.

More than 50,000 residents and tourists were affected by the evacuation orders in the Keys. Vehicles of every kind crowded U.S. 1, the only exit route. Desperate passengers booked virtually every seat on flights out of Key West.

Within the space of a few hours, life in paradise turned upside down.

Lines of cars snaked around gas pumps. Supermarket aisles were jammed, with no available carts in sight. Contractors toiling on tony vacation homes hastily applied boards and shutters.

"We just got here," Genienne Hernandez of Orlando complained as her husband loaded bags into a rented Lincoln. Newly arrived on the island, the couple had just enough time to tour the island, stop at Sloppy Joe's and be ordered to scoot.

"We are over hurricanes," Hernandez said. "We had like three last year" in the Orlando area.

No one has forgotten that the state was hit by four hurricanes last season, and the drill certainly seemed familiar.

Gov. Jeb Bush cut short his vacation in Maine and declared a state of emergency. The state suspended tolls on the northbound segment of Florida's Turnpike from Homestead to the Broward County line and on westbound Alligator Alley/I-75.

Miami-Dade Manager George Burgess considered evacuations of people with special needs and those living in mobile homes. Emergency managers in Broward coordinated plans with state officials and urged residents to stay informed and prepared.

"All Broward residents should have their hurricane kits ready and should be thinking about what their plan will be if we get severe weather," said Carl Fowler, spokesman for Broward's emergency management office.

The Florida National Guard mustered for action. Water control managers worried about floods, noting that much of the state already was saturated by heavy summer rain. Power utilities prepared for widespread outages.

"This will be a whole statewide problem," said state meteorologist Ben Nelson.

It could be a particular problem for the Pensacola area, targeted as Dennis' likely point of landfall Sunday. That region still has not recovered from the savage beating it took last September from Ivan.

"The town's not even put back together yet, and it's like, `Here we go again,'" said Amar Brazwell, 65, of Pensacola.

He said his neighbors seem to be preparing themselves earlier and with greater purpose than in the past. "Ivan educated them," he said. "The hard way and extensively."

Craig Fugate, the state's emergency management director, said he wasn't hearing "a lot of optimistic assumptions" that Florida could avoid a strike.

That hope dimmed through the day, as Dennis kept slipping off the predicted track. Meteorologists said it appeared that a high pressure system that had been nudging Dennis to the west - and away from the Keys and peninsula - was eroding faster than expected.

The storm's core still was expected to remain offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as it headed toward Pensacola or elsewhere along the upper Gulf Coast, but its northward wobbles carried the projected path considerably closer to the Keys and the mainland.

One slightly encouraging development: The new path would take Dennis over mountainous areas of Cuba, which could sap it of some strength.

One distinctly discouraging development: The forecast had Dennis maintaining its status as a major hurricane.

As a result, regional water managers were in watch-and-wait mode, with a little wishing thrown in.

After a month of heavy rains, coastal drainage structures have been open and pumping for weeks, trying to drop levels in Lake Okeechobee and water conservation areas fringing the urban East Coast - but Lake Okeechobee continues to rise.

In the Keys, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of mobile home residents, visitors and other nonresidents throughout the 107-mile chain. Residents were ordered to leave Key West and the Lower Keys.

All travel trailers and recreational vehicles must leave. County and state parks were ordered closed, schools were closed and tolls were lifted on the Card Sound Bridge.

"It snuck right up on us and people are just beginning to prepare," said Key West Mayor Jimmy Weekley. "I would really hate to see the storm come any further east and have a direct hit. I would hope that it goes west."


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Evan S. Benn, Marc Caputo, Gary Fineout, Larry Lebowitz, Phil Long, Curtis Morgan, Joe Mozingo and Noaki Schwartz and translator Renato Perez contributed to this report.)


© 2005, The Miami Herald.

Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Florida Braces for Hurricane Dennis's 105 Mph Winds (Update1)

July 7 (Bloomberg) -- Residents of southern Florida began bracing for their first hurricane of the season as a strengthening Dennis, packing winds of 105 mph, moved toward Jamaica on a path that would reach the Keys by the weekend.

Dennis may intensify to a so-called major hurricane, meaning it will have winds stronger than 111 mph (179 kph) by the time it reaches Florida. That would make it a Category 3 storm, capable of destroying mobile homes and forcing the evacuation of low-lying areas within several blocks of the shoreline.

A storm-weary southern U.S., particularly Florida, is still recovering and rebuilding after a devastating storm season last year. A record four hurricanes -- Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne -- hit land in the state and caused almost $23 billion in property damage.

``Dennis is looking more and more ominous as the forecasts come in,'' said Guy Gleichmann, president of United Strategic Investors Group, an equity and futures brokerage firm in Hollywood, Florida. ``There are some structures still under repair from Ivan. It's like hitting a wounded animal.''

Dennis was about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Kingston, Jamaica, as of 2 p.m. New York time and about 170 miles south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, heading northwest at about 15 mph, forecasters said. Hurricane-force winds extend as far as 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm force winds as far as 140 miles.


Oil companies are evacuating rigs and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico east of a line from Cameron, Louisiana, located 80 miles east of the Texas border. Transocean Inc., the world's largest offshore oil and natural-gas driller, said it is evacuating 325 workers from four rigs in the Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Dennis approaches.

Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Apache Corp. and Andarko Petroleum Corp. also announced they would evacuate workers from their Gulf operations.

The center's five-day forecast shows Dennis's center traveling a path over eastern Jamaica, western Cuba and into the Gulf toward Louisiana and Alabama by July 9. The storm may make landfall in the Florida Panhandle between July 10 and 11.

``This is way early to be hit by these storms,'' Gleichmann said in a telephone interview. ``There are plenty of other storms to worry about.''

The hurricane is forecast to produce as much as 15 inches of rain in isolated mountainous areas of Jamaica, which may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, hurricane specialists Richard Knabb and Richard Pasch said in a bulletin posted on the Miami-based National Hurricane Center's Web site.

Florida Keys

A hurricane watch is in effect for all of the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef south and Florida Bay, while a tropical storm watch was issued for all of southern Florida south of Golden Beach on the East Coast and south of Bonita Beach on the West Coast, the Miami-based center said in an advisory.

Hurricane warnings mean that winds of more than 73 mph are expected within the next 24 hours, and a watch indicates winds of that speed are possible within 36 hours. Tropical storm warnings mean that winds of 39 mph to 72 mph are expected within the next day, while a watch indicates winds of that speed are possible in 36 hours.

Florida has partially activated its state emergency operation center, with some support offices such as public information, transportation and law enforcement up and running, said Mike Stone, a spokesman for the Florida Emergency Management Division. The state center is conducting conference calls to brief county officials on preparations, he said.

Panhandle Prepares

``Our biggest issue is that we want Floridians in the Keys and along the entire Gulf Coast to monitor this storm closely,'' Stone said in an interview. He said Panhandle residents should prepare today and tomorrow because Dennis may hit their area on Sunday.

Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, issued a voluntary evacuation order for nonresidents and visitors and will likely order the evacuation of mobile homes tonight, Stone said.

The Red Cross has put dozens of volunteers on stand-by to go into regions affected by the storm and open shelters along evacuation routes, said Laura Howe, southeastern regional spokeswoman for the agency. Their focus is on the Florida Panhandle and central Gulf Coast, she said.

The Red Cross, which spent $94 million on hurricane relief last year, is moving mobile food trucks into areas that could be affected, she said.

Shuttle Launch

``We've been prepared for an active season,'' Howe said today in an interview from Birmingham, Alabama. ``We learned a lot last year.''

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said today that Dennis wasn't affecting plans for the July 13 launch of the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Hurricane warnings are also in effect for all of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the southwestern peninsula of Haiti, and parts of central and eastern Cuba. Air Jamaica canceled all of its flights to and from Jamaica today because of the storm, the company said in a statement.

Dennis is currently a Category 2 storm on the five-tier Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, meaning it has winds of 96 mph to 110 mph. Such storms are capable of producing a storm surge of as much as 6 feet above normal and can cause coastal flooding and damage to trees, piers and unanchored mobile homes.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 110 mph, meaning it is just below the threshold of turning into a Category 3 storm.

On Cindy's Heels

Dennis follows closely behind Tropical Storm Cindy, which brought rain and wind to the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Cindy downed trees and power lines, cutting power to 318,000, and forced oil and gas companies to evacuate platforms and rigs.

Dennis is the fourth named storm of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, its earliest start ever. Dennis became a Category 1 hurricane yesterday as winds climbed to about 85 mph from about 70 mph.

``If Dennis remains mostly over water it could easily strengthen more than indicated here,'' Knabb and Pasch wrote in a statement.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Heather Burke in New York at;
Chris Dolmetsch in Princeton at
Last Updated: July 7, 2005 15:52 EDT
UPDATE 3-Hurricane Dennis kills 10 in Cuba, 22 in Haiti
Fri Jul 8, 2005 7:05 PM ET

(Updates position, adds Cuban toll and more dead in Haiti)

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA, July 8 (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis roared through the Caribbean on Friday, leaving 10 dead in Cuba and 22 in Haiti before aiming for Havana on a course toward the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, where oil rigs and vulnerable coastal areas were evacuated.

The storm weakened slightly as it crossed Cuba but the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Cuban meteorologists had reported a 149-mph (240 kph) gust that caused extensive damage in the city of Cienfuegos.

Cuban President Fidel Castro said Dennis had already killed 10 people as its outer bands brushed over Cuba's southeastern corner Thursday night. Storm fatalities are rare in Communist Cuba where the authorities can muster all state resources to evacuate hundreds of thousands from the path of hurricanes.

Most of the victims died in collapsed houses in Granma province, Castro said on state television. An 18-day-old baby was among those who died.

On Friday, the storm's sustained winds of 135-mph (215 kph) ripped up trees and downed electricity lines in Cienfuegos and U.S. forecasters said Dennis was threatening the capital Havana, where many live in decrepit colonial buildings.

The U.S. Hurricane Center said the eye of Dennis would head into the eastern Gulf on Friday evening and skirt the Florida Keys on Saturday before taking aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It was the strongest Atlantic hurricane to form this early in the season since records began in 1851. Tourists and residents hurried to leave the fragile, low-lying Keys in long lines that became a familiar picture in 2004 when Florida was struck by four hurricanes in a row.

In southern Haiti, many people fled their flooded homes and the mayor of Grand-Goave, Marie Hingreed Nelchoix, said 17 people had died in and around her city, including 15 thrown into a swollen river when a bridge collapsed.

Four people died around the southeastern city of Jacmel, said a civil protection official. Earlier officials had reported that a young man was killed when a tree fell on a house near Les Cayes.

At 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT), Dennis was located about 75 miles (120 km) east-southeast of Havana, and was moving northwestward at 17 mph (28 kph).    

In the U.S. Gulf, a slew of energy companies said they were pulling workers off oil rigs and shutting down some crude and natural gas production.

Dennis was on a similar trajectory as last September's Hurricane Ivan, which caused extensive damage to pipelines and rigs. The U.S. Gulf provides about a quarter of U.S. oil and natural gas and the threat of Dennis has helped keep U.S. crude futures prices near record highs above $60 a barrel.

The storm was expected to regain some strength once it leaves the Cuban mainland and returns to open water, and U.S. forecasters said they expected it to still be a major hurricane, capable of causing serious damage, by the time it reaches the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday or early on Monday.

U.S. authorities ordered residents to evacuate Key West and the lower part of the Florida Keys, which are connected to the southern tip of mainland Florida by a single highway.

NASA decided on Friday to leave space shuttle Discovery on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, but continued to watch Dennis closely. A decision to roll Discovery back to its hangar would have delayed the scheduled Wednesday launch, the first shuttle mission since the Columbia disaster in 2003.

Dennis drenched Jamaica on Thursday, triggering mudslides that blocked roads as the core of the storm moved north of the mountainous Caribbean island of 2.6 million. About 3,000 people moved to storm shelters in south-central Jamaica.

It also soaked the Cayman Islands, a tiny British territory and banking center with 43,000 residents. Hurricane Ivan damaged or destroyed 70 percent of the buildings on Grand Cayman Island last year. (Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in Port-au-Prince, Michael Christie and Jim Loney in Miami, Michael Peltier in Tallahassee and Irene Klotz at Cape Canaveral)    

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Posted on Fri, Jul. 08, 2005

The sky turned midnight black and it was still day

The sky turned midnight black and it was still day. Rain slashed in horizontal sheets and the streets began to fill. Wind came in great, screeching bursts and more was on the way.

The front half of Hurricane Dennis, a mammoth Category 4 hurricane that at one point developed 150 mph winds, arrived Friday in the Florida Keys and extreme South Florida, and the worst of it lurked just over the horizon Friday night.

Residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties faced a wet, windy weekend -- and maybe more. Severe thunderstorms punched through both counties. A tornado watch covered Miami-Dade overnight.

Forecasters and local officials urged South Floridians to remain home today.

Even with the hurricane's center still over Cuba, gusts of 52 mph were measured Friday evening at Opa-locka, 50 mph at Miami International Airport and 32 mph at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and Pembroke Pines.

Farther south, even veteran Conchs -- those who defied evacuation orders -- sensed something bad already at hand and still to come.

''I've been in and out of the Keys since 1942,'' said Arlene Klein, a Key West notary. ``But this one has a lot of oomph in it. You can feel the barometer falling.''

Predicting heavy rain and 45 mph gusts from the squalls generated by Dennis' feeder bands, forecasters issued a flood watch for already sodden South Florida. They predicted three to eight inches of rain by Sunday night. They also warned of high tides.

The fierce core should remain offshore in the Florida Straits and Gulf of Mexico and the most severe weather could be gone by tonight, though forecasters offered no guarantees.

Dennis spent most of the day tormenting Cuba and even a slight shift in its path could have serious implications for South Florida, said Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade.

''But 30 miles to the right of what we're forecasting, that would bring hurricane force winds to the Lower Keys,'' Rappaport said. ``Fifty miles -- that would bring the hurricane core. There is not a lot of room for error.''

In the other corner of Florida, where the sun still shone, hurricane-traumatized residents of Pensacola and nearby areas jammed gasoline stations, stripped supermarkets bare and descended into something very close to panic as Dennis drew a bead on their area.

The core's estimated time of arrival: Sunday, 3 p.m. local time. The same area was ravaged by Hurricane Ivan last September.

More than 716,000 people likely will need to evacuate the Florida Panhandle over the weekend, state officials said. Many took off on a running start Friday.

''We have a significant voluntary evacuation going on already,'' said Ernie Duarte, chief spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol. ``Unlike last year when they stayed around, they are not waiting for the hurricane to get out of here.''

The U.S. Census Bureau said Dennis threatened 9.46 million people living in coastal counties along the Gulf of Mexico from the Keys to Louisiana.

Gasoline was in such short supply in the Panhandle that Betty Panepinto, fleeing to St. Petersburg from Pensacola, couldn't find any fuel until she was 120 miles from home. Even then, the Exprezit station in Chipley slapped a $25 limit on her. Why was she leaving?

''Because it's a Category Four,'' said Panepinto, 51. ``We stayed for Ivan and I said I'd never do it again. It was frightening the whole night. It's just not worth risking your life for some stuff.''

The story was the same in Panama City.

''It is frightening. It is alarming,'' Rene Westerfeld said as she waited for rationed gasoline. ``I am feeling very uneasy.''

Even with its core still on the other side of Cuba, Dennis sprawled over so much geography that its leading edge reached the Keys early in the day -- and its malevolent tango with Florida began.

Severe thunderstorms roamed through the island chain during the morning, and their frequency and potency increased throughout the day.

By mid-morning a kind of congenial resignation had swept through Key West, as those who would be soon be muddling together through the scary unknown reacquainted in supermarket checkout lines, at liquor store counters, and in packed parking lots.

On a local radio station, residents phoned in with offers of free plywood, a robotic National Weather Service bulletin warned of dangerous thunderstorms some 70 miles north, and programmers played tunes that seemed to strike Key West's unique chord.

''Save the beer lads, save the beer, whatever you do tonight just save the beer . . .. We may be going down, but save the beer,'' trilled one song, by country-comedy duo Faust & Lewis.

In Islamorada, about one-third of the way down the chain, winds whipped palm and coconut trees against buildings and snapped a tree limb, sending it crashing onto a stretch of U.S 1 at mile marker 82. Flood waters danced outside the steps of the Caribbean Cafe and inched half way up gas station pumps.

''This looks like a monster,'' said Capt. Joe Leiter of the Monroe County Sheriff's office.

In Marathan, farther south, even local traffic thinned by noon and Dee Matlock, owner of Dee's Hair Sensations at mile marker 50, echoed the disappointment of business owners who could only watch dejectedly as tourists streamed north.

''We were packed with people yesterday,'' she said. ``They gave the evacuation orders and, within half an hour, they're all gone.''

In other developments:

• Emergency managers in Miami-Dade issued a voluntary evacuation order for pre-registered special needs residents, people who live in mobile homes and those who live in unsafe structures. They were invited to seek shelter at Booker T. Washington Senior High, 1200 NW 6th Avenue, in Miami.

• Watches and warnings covered the Gulf Coast from the Louisiana-Mississippi border all the way through Southwest Florida.

Officials in Collier County, including Naples, issued a voluntary evacuation order for people living in coastal areas and on barrier islands. On Sanibel Island, hotel managers strongly urged guests to stay off the roads until at least tonight.

• Water managers said South Florida's drainage system already was over-taxed by heavy summer rains. ''This could be a significant event for the district even if we do not get a direct hit from this hurricane,'' said Olivia McLean, director of emergency management for the South Florida Water Management District.

• The storm's slight jog toward the west provided a little relief to NASA, which decided not to remove shuttle Discovery from its launch pad. Liftoff of the first shuttle mission since the Columbia accident of 2003 remains scheduled for 3:51 p.m. Wednesday.

And, of course, in the grand and ill-advised tradition of hurricanes and Florida, many people viewed all of this as an opportunity to party hardy, consume abundant quantities of booze and display a sort of rowdy good humor.

In Marathon, Paul Wright took some time to poke fun at the storm, transforming the sign at World Class Angler, a fishing gear storm, into a taunt:

``Dennis Don't Be A Menace.''

Herald staff writers Erika Bolstad, Marc Caputo, Lesley Clark, Tere Figueras, Phil Long, David Ovalle, Roberto Santiago, Amy Sherman and Dave Wilson contributed to this report


Updated: 02:02 PM EDT

More Than a Million Told to Evacuate


KEY WEST, Fla. (July 9, 2005) - Coastal residents packed up and evacuated or hunkered down Saturday as Hurricane Dennis lashed the Florida Keys with wind and sheets of rain and charged toward areas still rebuilding from last year's storms.

More than 1 million people from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana were under evacuation orders. Landfall was expected Sunday afternoon anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.

"This is a very dangerous storm and we hope that you will evacuate," Gov. Jeb Bush said to residents in the Panhandle.

The storm, the earliest to reach Category 4 strength in the Caribbean on record, was expected to bring up to 8 inches of rain and 6-foot storm surges Saturday. It was blamed for at least 10 deaths in Cuba and 10 in Haiti.

Several tornado touchdowns in the Tampa Bay area caused minor damage such as downed trees, and more tornadoes and battering waves were likely in parts of the Gulf of Mexico coast Sunday.

The storm decreased in strength to Category 1 after passing over Cuba, but strengthened again as it moved over open water into a Category 2, with top winds of 100 mph.

More than 211,000 homes and businesses were without power Saturday in the southern tip of Florida, including the entire city of Key West, officials said.

The hurricane's eye passed west of the island Saturday morning, but it still produced stinging rain and wind gusts that buckled windows. Tree branches, plywood, street signs and other debris littered the streets, and awnings hung precariously from storefronts. Waves crashed over a seawall, sending sand and coral onto a main road. About three blocks of the tourist drag of Duval Street was under 1 foot of water.

"We're holding up," Key West Mayor Jimmy Weekley said. "The biggest damage right now of course is the power being off."

No injuries were reported, but residents braced for battering 8-foot waves on top of 3-foot storm surges expected in the Keys. Rainfall in Key West was about 2.8 inches Friday and early Saturday; forecasts called for up to 8 inches.

Traffic doubled on some Mississippi roads as people fled Florida, Alabama and Louisiana. Alabama officials were turning Interstate 65 into a one-way route north from the coast to Montgomery.

"All day long all of our phones have been ringing. The only thing we can tell people is that we are sold out," said Lasonya Lewis, a clerk at a Montgomery hotel.

About a half-million people in coastal Alabama and more than 700,000 in the Keys and low-lying areas of the Florida Gulf Coast were under evacuation orders.

Normally busy shops in Key West were boarded up and one liquor store had a sign that read: "Dennis Don't Be a Menace." Still, a few places were open to feed the holdouts.

"We've never been in a hurricane before, or even near one," said David Keeley of Peterborough, England, who drank at Sloppy Joe's bar and made plans to go back to his hotel with his wife, "lock the door, pull the blinds and hope for the best."

"If the power stays on, we've got the TV. We've got the minibar. We've got each other," he said.

Key West felt sustained winds around 61 mph early Saturday, with gusts up to 74 mph, said meteorologist Matt Strahan. He said the wind had pushed a vintage DC-3 plane about 300 yards down the tarmac at the city's airport, which was closed. Pensacola's airport was the only other major one closed in the state.

Myra Gamblin, whose home in Pace, Fla., was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ivan last September, said the storms were wearing on her nerves. "We finally got everything repaired in January and here we go again in July," she said.

At 1 p.m. EDT, Dennis' eye was about 355 miles south-southeast of Apalachicola in the Panhandle and about 460 miles southeast of Pascagoula, Miss. It was moving northwest at about 14 mph, forecasters said. The storm's center had passed within about 125 miles west of Key West.

Hurricane-force wind of at least 74 mph extended up to 35 miles from Dennis' center, and tropical storm-force wind stretched up to 175 miles out.

Many in Dennis' strike zone were aware that it was following nearly in the path of Ivan, which came ashore at the Florida-Alabama line, causing 29 deaths and $4 billion damage in the Panhandle alone.

Mitch Lamb had lived in a government-issued travel trailer while his home was being repaired and only recently moved back. About 9,300 other trailers were still in use by Floridians whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the hurricanes.

As he packed up his belongings Friday, Lamb was ready to give up on his Gulf Breeze home after spending $70,000 out of his own pocket on repairs.

"I hope this house is gone when I get back because I do not want to go through it again," he said. "We'll just sell the waterfront property and take the loss."

07/09/05 13:33 EDT

New hurricane plays copycat in Ivan's path


Residents here braced for the coming hurricane Saturday while stepping over piles of nearly year-old debris from the last one.

A woman rebuilding her two-story home near the beach stops for what she fears will be her second hurricane in 10 months. Another woman filling plastic bags with sand from a playground points to the spot a few yards away where the rising water finally stopped rising that day last September, and she bursts into tears without warning. A little girl quickly takes off a shirt she has not worn since the last hurricane -- because the tiny particles of insulation from her family's house that was destroyed that day make it itch.

On one boarded-up home, the before-and-after-and-before time warp was written out in three painted words on the plywood: "Ivan Go Away!"

Hurricane Ivan came and went away from Pensacola Sept. 16, a Category 3 storm that killed 29 people here and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and buildings. On Saturday, as Hurricane Dennis bore down an almost identical path as Hurricane Ivan's -- gaining strength as it approached -- weary Pensacola residents did their best to shore up again, both physically and mentally. Many said they would drive north Saturday evening, a few hours ahead of the storm's outer bands, while others -- although clearly a minority in most of September's hardest-hit areas -- said they would ride it out behind their familiar layers of wood and nails and sand.

At 8 p.m. PDT, Dennis' eye was 250 miles south of Panama City in the Panhandle and 340 miles southeast of Biloxi, Miss. After missing Key West by about 125 miles, it was moving northwest at about 13 mph and expected to turn to the north before making landfall, forecasters said.

Thousands of residents moved into shelters Friday as the storm seemed to veer slightly to the west, toward an Alabama landfall. In that state, Gov. Bob Riley declared a mandatory evacuation for Mobile County, a measure not taken in recent memory.

Nerves are frayed.

"They're seeing the kinds of problems you normally see after the storm," said Paul Muller, a retired Pensacola police officer with plenty of friends still on the job. "People fighting over cutting in line at the gas station, or taking the last thing off the shelf."

Across town, Lois Whitley, 67, awoke to find most of the storm guards for her windows missing from the garage. "Eleven are missing," she said after calling the police. "Stealing from a widow."

Sheriff Ron McNesby of Escambia County, at a news conference, urged residents of surrounding counties to "be patient" with the exodus. There were more than 900 calls to 911 from low-lying areas during Hurricane Ivan, with deputies pulled off the street and unable to respond.

"Normally we have a hard time getting people to evacuate, but since our last hurricane, it's not a problem," McNesby said.

Of grave concern to the authorities here were the dangerous states of construction, pre-construction or demolition remaining in the low-lying coastal areas. There is less concern for vegetative debris, like trees, since most of the trees are gone. In the Grand Lagoon subdivision on the water -- perhaps hardest hit by Hurricane Ivan, with several deaths -- piles of wood and broken cinder blocks at the curb carried the threat of transforming into dangerous missiles when Hurricane Dennis' high winds hit.

Passengers arriving in town by airplane could look out the windows and see streets dotted with telltale blue plastic tarps stretched across rooftops.

"Hell, it looks good here now," said Sheriff's Deputy Rick Durant, who lost a house nearby, recalling how he called his wife last September to tell her that not only their house, but most of the block, had been wiped out.

Dr. Jamie Covan, 43, a Pensacola dentist, looked at a debris pile taller than him, beside his large, 3-year-old beachside home. "It took them a while to get their debris cleaned up," Covan said, wondering aloud whether it was too late. During Hurricane Ivan, he and his wife threw their lawn furniture into the swimming pool. It was washed away anyway. He said he was confident in his home's state-of-the-art windows, certified to withstand gusts of 135 mph.

Elsewhere, in working-class neighborhoods, there are no such windows, just sheets of wood. Robert Shumpert, 70, hammer in hand, looked over his shoulder at his brand-new carport, which replaced the one Hurricane Ivan blew away. "We just finished it two days ago," Shumpert said. "I'm fixing to lose it again. We're not in as bad of shape as it might seem, but it's bad enough. You can't get anybody to come out here," he said, echoing complaints of a shortage of roofers after Hurricane Ivan, with shady operations filling in.

Hal Peebles, 72, a retired Navy officer, lived in Grand Lagoon for 25 years until his home was washed off its foundation by Hurricane Ivan. "I know people who barely escaped with their lives," Peebles said. "There are fewer of those after Ivan. If you didn't learn your lesson with Ivan, you're not going to."

He looked at the half-repaired and under-construction homes around him, and said, "If this is a Category 4 or 5, all of this will be gone."

Tammie Muller, 45, left town with her husband as Hurricane Ivan approached last year, and, as she shoveled sand from the playground near her home on Saturday, began to cry as she remembered coming home.

"When we left last time, this whole place was a mess," she said. "The whole city was just torn up. And then people started coming up dead. It was very scary."

South Florida was spared serious damage from Hurricane Dennis. In southern Miami-Dade County, gusting wind knocked out many of the traffic lights along U.S. Route 1, one of the main routes to and from the Florida Keys. Few cars were on the road early Saturday morning, and police cruisers were stationed at intersections where the traffic lights were out.

According to radio broadcasts, more than 100,000 homes in Miami-Dade County were without electricity. But most homes in the county still had power.

Weather reports had suggested there was little probability that Miami and the rest of the east coast of Florida would get much of the force of Hurricane Dennis. Residents seemed to take the arrival of the storm in stride. They had either stocked up on batteries and water and other emergency supplies or concluded they would not need them. In drugstores in the southern part of Miami-Dade County, there were plenty of batteries and no lines of customers stocking up.

Amy Halsey and her husband, Douglas, had scheduled a dinner party for Friday night in their home in Pinecrest and went right ahead as the local television station reported nonstop on the approaching hurricane. The lights in their dining room flickered and then went out about 10 p.m. Halsey simply struck matches and lit a row of candles in the center of her long table, and there was not even a pause in conversation.

But in Pensacola, busy hands cut wood throughout the morning, and Hal Banks, 46, paused in his garage from his sawing and joked that Arizona was looking pretty good about now.

"A lot of us are just shell-shocked," Banks said. "The unwritten rule is that you get one hurricane season off, but that hasn't happened."


UPDATE 4-Hurricane Dennis menaces storm-scarred U.S. coast
Sun Jul 10, 2005 12:56 PM ET

(Updates position, strength, adds forecaster, Gov. Bush, Pensacola resident, previous MIAMI)

By Marc Serota

PENSACOLA, Fla., July 10 (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis thundered toward the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday with ferocious winds and waves that threatened potentially massive destruction in an area still bearing the scars of the last storm season.

After killing 32 people in Cuba and Haiti in the Caribbean, Dennis roared northward in the Gulf of Mexico with 140 mph (226 kph) winds capable of shredding roofs, and a 10- to 15-foot (3 metre to 4.6 metre) storm surge that could swamp towns.

By 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), Dennis' winds had weakened by 5 mph (8 kph) from earlier in the morning as the sprawling storm swept over slightly cooler waters in the northern Gulf.

But it remained a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale -- stronger than Hurricane Ivan was when it came ashore last September and killed 25 people, caused $14 billion in damages and destroyed or damaged 13 oil drilling platforms in the Gulf.

"We still think it'll make 

landfall at Category 4 or borderline Category 3 and 4," Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, told CNN.

"These are really dangerous storms and the devastation that could take place is something that we've already seen," warned Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Authorities in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi urged more than 1.2 million people in vulnerable low-lying areas to leave their homes and many heeded the warning, streaming away in long lines of cars all day Saturday and draining gas stations dry.

"We've deployed a lot of resources. We've pre-positioned medical, water, food, other kinds of supplies," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told ABC's "This Week."

"But people have to be braced for a very serious storm."

In Pensacola, emergency officials told residents who decided to ride the storm out at home to write their names in waterproof ink across their chests in case they were killed and needed to be identified, WFOR television reported.

Well I figured I could ride it out but the latest news is a bit grim," Jimmy Redd said as he abandoned his home and trudged through gusty squalls to the Pensacola civic center, which was serving as a shelter for 2,500 people.


Flat as glass a day before, Pensacola bay on Sunday morning turned into a heaving 4- to 6-foot (1.2 metre to 1.8 metre) sea, washing over the bridges connecting the outlying barrier island and the Pensacola U.S. Naval Air Station to the mainland. Waves surged over the top of a 25-foot-high (7.6-metre-high) pier.

Dennis at noon (1600 GMT) was located 65 miles (105 km) to the south-southeast of Pensacola, and had picked up speed to travel at around 18 mph (29 kph), the hurricane center said. Its core of most intense winds was expected to come ashore by 4 p.m. (2000 GMT), state officials said.

Sheets of rain raced across the choppy water at Pensacola, where blue tarps still cover houses whose roofs were damaged by Ivan, and forecasters warned that Dennis could bring rainfall of 15 inches (38 cm) in the area where it makes landfall.

Energy companies pulled workers off oil rigs and shut down some crude and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, where the United States gets a quarter of its oil and gas.

Along the Gulf Coast, some people shuttered their houses with recycled boards bearing the words "Go Away Ivan."

Ivan was one of an unprecedented four hurricanes to hit Florida in a six-week period last season. Florida officials said 40,000 homes statewide had not been fixed yet.

Before heading north through the Gulf, Dennis brushed past the popular tourist island of Key West on Florida's southern tip. State officials said around 100,000 houses and businesses were without power Sunday morning.

The hurricane hit Cuba on Friday with 150 mph (240 kph) winds and crumpled houses, uprooted trees and downed power lines. But its winds weakened to 90 mph (145 kph) as it crossed the island of 11 million people before roaring into the Gulf late on Friday night

Ten people were killed in Cuba and 22 in Haiti. (Additional reporting by Cathy Donelson in Mobile, Michael Christie in Miami and Jennifer Portman in Tallahassee)    

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Hurricane Dennis heads north after hammering coast
Mon Jul 11, 2005 12:09 AM ET
By Marc Serota

PENSACOLA, Fla., July 11 (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis swamped homes, ripped off roofs and felled power lines and trees when it hurtled into northwest Florida on Sunday with 120-mph (190-kph) winds, strewing debris anew over an area recovering from a devastating storm last year.

But despite fears among coastal residents of a repeat of the widespread damage from September's Hurricane Ivan, the hurricane delivered a less punishing blow.

"We dodged the bullet on the most part although our beach has suffered badly again," said Sara Comander, a spokeswoman for Walton County east of Pensacola, adding most damage would be erosion to the beach.

Dennis weakened rapidly as it moved north-northwest through Alabama. By 11 p.m. (0300 GMT) on Monday it was a tropical storm with its top winds down to 50 mph (80 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm could still cause heavy rain and possible tornadoes over central and northern Alabama, parts of Mississippi and the western Tennessee Valley, the center warned.

Dennis cut power to almost half a million customers along the coast, peeled some aluminum roofs off like sardine cans, pushed at least one home into the ocean and turned some streets into rivers.

There were no reports of people killed directly by the storm although officials in Walton County, Florida, said a young boy was killed on Friday when his parents drove into him while evacuating their home ahead of the storm.

Several houses and condominiums were badly damaged on Holiday Isle, offshore from Destin, said Kathleen Mitnacca, an emergency management spokeswoman in Okaloosa County.

"There is a lot of infrastructure damage. One house, a nice one, is in the Gulf now," Mitnacca said.


Some of the worst flooding was far to the east in the tiny fishing town of St. Marks, near Tallahassee, where chest-deep water flowed through the streets. Boaters rescued people stranded in their homes by the rapidly rising water.   

Authorities had urged residents in vulnerable coastal areas of the Florida panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi to evacuate ahead of Dennis, and with memories fresh from Ivan, many had heeded the warnings.

Dennis killed 32 people in a rampage through the Caribbean last week -- 10 in Cuba and 22 in Haiti -- and intensified into a very dangerous storm as it charged north up the Gulf of Mexico toward the coast on Sunday.

But before it hit land on Santa Rosa Island just east of Pensacola on Sunday afternoon, Dennis weakened from a powerful category 4 hurricane to a category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

In terms of wind speed, Dennis was as strong as Ivan, which came ashore near Pensacola and killed 25 people, caused $14 billion in damages and destroyed or damaged 13 oil drilling platforms in the Gulf.

But the storm moved rapidly over land, limiting the damage it could inflict, and its strongest side hit well east of the largest city in the area, Pensacola.

Residents of Pensacola breathed a sigh of relief.

"We're feeling very good right now, we've had no loss of life that I'm aware of," the city's mayor, John Fogg, told Fox News.

President George W. Bush declared Florida, Mississippi and Alabama disaster areas, making them eligible for federal recovery aid.

Energy companies pulled 2,100 workers off oil rigs and shut down 42 percent of daily crude output and 27 percent of daily natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, where the United States gets a quarter of its oil and gas.

(Additional reporting by Michael Christie and Jane Sutton in Miami, Jennifer Portman in Tallahassee, Erwin Seba in Houston and Karen Jacobs in Atlanta)    

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.



Emily stays south of Florida

By Ken Kaye
Staff Writer and the Associated Press
Posted July 14 2005, 8:09 AM EDT

Florida should finally catch a break, thanks to the Bermuda High.

Because that ridge of high pressure is strong and extends to lower latitudes, it should keep Hurricane Emily about 500 miles south of Miami, forecasters said.

Last summer, it wasn't so benevolent: It pushed the four hurricanes toward the state, making for the most destructive season in history.

"We're all rooting for the strong Bermuda High to hang in there," said meteorologist Jim Lushine of the National Weather Service in Miami. "If it does that, we should escape this one pretty easily."

Emily pounded Grenada early Thursday, packing sustained winds of about 90 mph.

They took a major portion of the brunt of the storm,'' said Trisha Wallace, a forecaster with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm was heading west, and a tropical storm watch was in effect for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, which Wallace said could expect heavy rain. According to the current forecast track, the storm could hit the southern coast of Texas by early next week.

Grenadians had rushed home or to shelters under heavy rain Wednesday, forming traffic jams in the capital of St. George's as the storm approached. The government had declared a state of emergency as a precaution.

The struggle to recover from last year's Hurricane Ivan had prevented Grenada from thoroughly preparing for this year's hurricane season. Amid a shortage of construction supplies, many islanders still have no roofs and some children are still taught under tarps.

At 5 a.m. Thursday, the center of Hurricane Emily was about 45 miles northwest of Grenada, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was heading northwest at about 18 mph.

Commerce halted across much of the eastern Caribbean as Emily bore down. BP oil company evacuated nonessential staff from its 14 offshore oil platforms in Trinidad, leaving 11 employees to operate two platforms to fulfill its contractual obligations to provide gas for the country, the company said.

In St. Vincent, people placed boards over window and businesses. ``We've got to be prepared and that's what we're doing,'' said Cordell Roberts, 39, a fisherman who was helping to pull boats from the water in the capital, Kingstown.

Emily became a hurricane Wednesday night.

Because Emily encountered low-level wind shear on Wednesday, it didn't intensify as quickly as initially forecast. The storm still was expected to spin into a major hurricane with 115-mph winds within three days.

"The intensification may be delayed, but the western Caribbean is normally a very good location for strengthening," said hurricane specialist James Franklin of the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County. "It's hanging in there."

The system roughed up the Windward Islands on Wednesday with up to 6 inches of rain and winds gusting more than 60 mph. Businesses in Barbados shut down, and islanders snapped up food, water and emergency supplies.

Under the long-range forecast, Emily would move south of Jamaica on Saturday, remain about 300 miles south of Cuba on Sunday and strike Mexico south of Cozumel on Monday.

Lushine said the Bermuda High, centered over the eastern Atlantic, normally is strong in July, then weakens. Last year it remained strong through August and September.

The ridge is forecast to weaken in about two weeks, and if it weakens enough, that, too, would benefit the state. The reason: Storms would be allowed to scoot through breaks in the ridge and turn north before reaching the Florida coast.

"We hope it's a very weak Bermuda High, because a strong Bermuda High would steer storms right at us," Lushine said.

Hurricane Emily hits Atlantic islands

The Associated Press

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada — Hurricane Emily grew even more powerful yesterday after slamming into Grenada, tearing up crops, flooding streets and striking at homes still under repair from last year's storms. At least one man was killed.

The storm strengthened to a dangerous Category 3 as it cleared the Windward Islands, unleashing heavy surf, gusty winds and torrential rains on islands hundreds of miles away: Trinidad in the south, nearby Venezuela, to the west and Dominican Republic in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

Venezuelan authorities temporarily ordered some oil tankers to stay in port in the key oil refining zone of Puerto la Cruz, port captain José Jiménez Quintero said.

The storm was packing sustained winds near 115 mph and moving west-northwest at around 21 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted the second major hurricane of the Atlantic season would get even stronger.

Emily struck hard in Grenada, especially in the northern parishes of St. Patrick's and St. Andrew's and the outlying islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique, authorities said.

The damage comes as the island nation is still recovering from last year's Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed thousands of residences and damaged 90 percent of the historic Georgian buildings in the capital.

"Just as we were trying to rebuild ... this is a very, very major setback," said Barry Collymore, a spokesman for Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. "There's been lots of destruction."

The Organization of American States expressed concern at the prospect of a "severe economic setback" to countries hit by hurricanes, especially Grenada, and called an emergency meeting for today.

A man in his 40s was killed when a landslide crushed his home in St. Andrew's, said Allen McGuire, Grenada's consul general in New York.

In the capital, St. George's, winds blew out windows and caused flooding, Collymore said.

On Carriacou, the storm damaged the roof of the only hospital, forcing the evacuation of patients, officials said. Sixteen houses were destroyed and more than 200 were damaged, McGuire said.

Elsewhere in the country, two police stations and two homes for the elderly also lost their roofs, landslides and fallen trees blocked roads, streets were flooded and crops were destroyed.

The two outlying islands had largely been spared from Ivan, but elsewhere in Grenada many of the homes damaged yesterday had still been under reconstruction, McGuire said.

In Trinidad, there was widespread flooding and at least one house washed away in the eastern community of Arima.

Jamaica was under a hurricane watch, while the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela posted tropical storm warnings as did the islands of Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba.

In Grenada, Mitchell had sought before the storm to reassure citizens that the government would not be caught off guard — as it was when Ivan killed 39 people and left a wasteland of ruined buildings in September.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


Hurricane Emily aims at Jamaica

Friday, July 15, 2005; Posted: 11:37 a.m. 

(CNN) -- Hurricane Emily weakened slightly Friday as it barreled through the Caribbean, but forecasters warned that it was still a dangerous storm.

At 11 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said the hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (201 kph), dropping it to Category 3 status.

The storm was centered about 465 miles (748 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, forecasters said. It was moving west-northwest at about 20 mph (32 kph).

A hurricane watch has been issued for Jamaica, meaning that hurricane conditions, including winds of more than 73 mph, are expected within the next 24 hours. A hurricane watch remained in effect for the Cayman Islands, meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

A Category 3 hurricane is capable of causing structural damage and coastal flooding, with storm surges of up to a foot.

Emily became the second major hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season Thursday evening, briefly reaching Category 4 status Friday with winds topping 135 mph (217 kilometers).

The storm already was being blamed for one death in Grenada, which took a near-direct hit from Emily early Thursday.

Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for portions of the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and for the entire southwestern peninsula of Haiti. The warnings mean tropical storm conditions, including winds between 39 and 73 mph, are expected within 24 hours.

Forecasters said 3 to 6 inches of rain could fall on Hispaniola, which includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba, 2 to 4 inches of rain were forecast.

When the storm reaches Jamaica, it is expected to dump 5 to 10 inches of rain on the island. Up to 15 inches could fall in some areas, and flash floods and mudslides are possible.

Emily's five-day forecast path from the U.S. National Hurricane Center predicts the eye will mostly likely pass just south of Jamaica on Saturday and make landfall on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula late Sunday or early Monday. After crossing the Yucatan, the forecast shows the storm entering the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

At that point, the Mexican mainland and the far southern coast of Texas are possible targets for Emily. However, projections that far ahead can be unreliable because of the erratic nature of hurricane movement.

In Grenada, heavy rain caused flooding and mudslides and left one person dead, according to Odette Campbell of the island's National Disaster Office.

Campbell said one bridge had collapsed and there were widespread reports of damage to homes and buildings -- some of which were still being repaired after Hurricane Ivan slammed through the region last summer.

In Trinidad, Emily was still a tropical storm when it came ashore, flooding some areas.

A spokeswoman for the Trinidad and Tobago National Emergency Management Agency said emergency response teams are rescuing people trapped by high water and clearing roadways of debris.

Emily is the latest storm in what has so far been an active 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, with five tropical systems developing in the first six weeks.

All five systems have reached at least tropical storm strength, and Dennis -- which packed 150 mph winds at one point -- was the earliest Category 4 hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean basin. The storm earlier this month caused extensive damage in Cuba and the northern U.S. Gulf Coast, killing more than three dozen people.

For Emily to reach Category 5 status, its maximum sustained winds would have to exceed 155 mph. A Category 5 hurricane is capable of producing catastrophic damage and flooding.

Coast evacuation begins in Mexico as Hurricane Emily approaches

2005-07-17 10:21:55
    MEXICO CITY, July 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Mexican authorities have ordered a large-scale evacuation from Caribbean resorts and offshore oil platforms on the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday as Hurricane Emily is getting near Cancun and the Yucatan peninsula.

    About 85,000 people along the coast from Holbox Island to Tulum will be evacuated, and more than 15,000 workers of the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos began leaving offshore oil platforms on the Gulf.

    Authorities said some 30,000 tourists in Cancun will also be relocated to larger, better-sheltered hotels on Sunday morning.

    Meteorological forecasts said Emily is expected to hit the Yucatan peninsula late Sunday or early Monday, before moving across the Gulf of Mexico and landing somewhere near the Mexico-USborder.

    Late Saturday, Emily was located about 210 km south-southwest of the Montego Bay, Jamaica, traveling west-northwest at a speed of 30 km per hour.

    Emily descended upon the Caribbean a week after its predecessor Dennis devastated parts of Haiti, Cuba and Florida of the United States, leaving more than 60 people dead.

    Puerto Rico and Venezuela are also closely following Emily's movement in fear of a possible hit. Enditem

Dangerous Hurricane Emily tears toward Mexico
Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:31 PM BST

By Anahi Rama and Tim Gaynor

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Emily howled toward Mexico's Caribbean coast on Sunday bearing 150 mph (240 kph) winds, pounding waves and torrential rain, and causing chaos in Cancun as tourists fled resorts in its path.

As an ominous stiff breeze signalled the storm's approach, thousands of tourists crushed into Cancun airport, many panicking as they were told flights were full and they should seek emergency shelter. Most hotels were already closed.

"We're in a foreign country. Most of the people don't speak English. It's very scary," said U.S. realtor Barbara Whetstone, close to tears after learning there were no flights home from the sprawling resort region.

The second major hurricane of the season, arriving days after Hurricane Dennis ripped through Cuba and Florida, Emily was set to smash into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula late in the evening after killing four people in Jamaica.

Emily was already a Category 4 storm on the five-step scale of hurricane intensity and forecasters feared it could blow into a rare and potentially catastrophic Category 5, capable of levelling buildings.

With authorities on standby to evacuate the entire Yucatan coast if necessary, some 40,000 tourists were pouring out of the area. Some 30,000 left on Saturday, out of 130,000 holidaymakers in the state of Quintana Roo.

In the scrum inside the airport, frantic visitors crammed around information booths and public telephones. The mood was bleaker after local government suspended the sale of alcohol.

"We saw them stacking up sandbags at our hotel and putting tape on the glass and then they cut off the alcohol," said Andrew Lechance, 41, from Boston. "The party's off in Cancun."

Some tourists were already joining locals in line at storm shelters. Thousands had been evacuated from the islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, or flimsy cabana resorts along the coast.

"It's my birthday today and I don't know if I'm going to be at home tonight or in a hurricane shelter," said Canadian Maureen Calkinn, turning 57 and awaiting news on her flight.

At 11 a.m. EDT (4:00 p.m. British time), Emily was at latitude 18.6 north and longitude 83.6 west, or 250 miles (405 km) east-southeast of Cozumel, and moving west-northwest near 20 mph (32 kph).


As the breeze picked up, business owners winced at the thought of what the storm could do to a local economy that is one of Mexico's richest thanks to a year-round tourist influx.

Emily passed 100 miles (160 km) to the south of Jamaica but still triggered flooding and mudslides there. Four people, including two children, died when their car was swept away.

It also passed south of the Cayman Islands, relieving residents of the British colony hit by Hurricane Ivan last year. Winds there were well short of hurricane force.

As Mexican radio repeated hurricane warnings, shops and bars were boarded up, thousands of troops were on standby, and schools, churches and sports centres prepared to offer shelter to tens of thousands of people.

Residents stocked up on canned food and bottled water. Health authorities stockpiled medicine to treat possible infections caused by flooding. Motorists lined up for fuel.

Long-term residents feared a repeat of Hurricane Gilbert, which tore up Cancun in 1988, razing homes, scarring beaches and killing hundreds. The worst hurricane since was Isidore, which washed away beach huts, cut off power and destroyed swathes of Yucatan jungle and mangroves in 2002.

Cancun's concrete hotels are mostly able to resist high winds, but thousands of Mexicans in the area live in ramshackle homes and the flat terrain offers little protection.

State oil monopoly Pemex, a major supplier to the United States, shut 63 oil wells in the southern Gulf of Mexico and evacuated some 15,000 nonessential workers from offshore rigs.

The closures will hold back a quarter of daily output.

Tiny Belize, which borders the Yucatan to the south, issued a tropical storm warning. Western Cuba was also facing storms.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Tourists Flee Mexico's Coast as Hurricane Approaches
Along the Way, Powerful Emily Takes Swipes at Grenada, Jamaica

CANCUN, Mexico (July 17, 2005) - Jittery tourists clutching pillows streamed out of beachside hotels and headed inland Sunday as Hurricane Emily's outer winds lashed the Yucatan peninsula. The storm sideswiped Jamaica, where four people were swept away in a car

Two people also were killed in a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico as more than 15,500 workers were evacuated from offshore oil platforms.

The Category 4 storm pounded Jamaica's southern coast, then made a jag to the south that spared the Cayman Islands before it set course for Mexico with 145 mph winds. It was expected to land near Cancun on Sunday night or early Monday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm would probably weaken as it crossed the Yucatan peninsula on its way to the Gulf.

Emily was likely to make landfall again on Wednesday anywhere from northeastern Mexico to southern Texas, Jack Beven, the hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center said, but cautioned it was too early to make a precise prediction.

A fleet of buses was moving 30,000 tourists in the resort to temporary shelters, while 70,000 to 80,000 more people were being evacuated across the state of Quintana Roo.

Hundreds of mostly foreign tourists waited for the buses in a light drizzle. Others lay shoulder-to-shoulder on thin foam pads in a sweltering gymnasium near the center of Cancun, one of Mexico's most popular tourist destinations known for its white-sand beaches, sprawling hotel complexes and all-night discos.

The evacuees were given free bottled water and sandwiches, but many gasped when a hard rain rattled the metal roof of the building. Some asked how long they would have to stay in the confines.

''It's hot in here,'' said Beth McGhee, 46, a tourist from Independence, Mo. ''We feel like we've been kept in the dark until this morning. But we're safe, and that's what's important.''

Cancun's grim-faced mayor, Francisco Alor, said the city was preparing for a near-direct hit.

''This hurricane is coming with same force as Gilbert,'' he said in reference to a notorious 1988 hurricane that killed 300 people in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Tourism and hotel officials had said guests of beachside hotels would be relocated to ballrooms and convention centers in larger, well-protected hotels, but the first wave of evacuees was ferried to gymnasiums and government schools.

In Jamaica, torrential rains drenched the south coast and washed away at least three houses, while a man, a woman, an infant boy and his 5-year-old sister were swept away in a car Saturday night. Searchers on Sunday found the four bodies trapped inside the car, which was filled with mud and other debris, police said.

The family had been driving through a flooded rural road in southwest Jamaica when a surge of water pushed them over a cliff.

The Cayman Islands escaped major damage Saturday. The islands and a handful of other Caribbean countries were devastated last year when three catastrophic hurricanes - Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - tore through the region with a collective ferocity not seen in years, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage.

On Sunday evening, Emily was about 135 miles southeast of Cozumel, an island just south of Cancun, and was approaching the Yucatan peninsula at about 20 mph.

The last time Cancun faced a mass evacuation was 1988, when the city and surrounding resort areas had only about 8,000 hotel rooms; that number has since grown to over 50,000.

Along the narrow spit of land that holds most of Cancun's palatial hotels, most businesses were boarded up and traffic lights were removed in anticipation of the storm.

Tourists in Cozumel also were moved to more central accommodations and local residents prepared to flee their homes for shelters in schools and communities on the island, which lies almost directly in the hurricane's projected path.

President Vicente Fox encouraged peninsula residents to seek shelter and not worry about leaving property and possessions unguarded.

State oil company Pemex was removing the last few hundred workers from oil platforms on the Gulf of Mexico. Strong winds downed a helicopter participating in the evacuation on Saturday night, killing a pilot and co-pilot, the company said.

The platform evacuations closed 63 wells and halting the production of 480,000 barrels of oil per day.

Emily has unleashed heavy surf, gusty winds and torrential rains across the Caribbean, hitting hard Thursday at Grenada, where at least one man was killed when his home was buried under a landslide.

The storm trailed Hurricane Dennis, which killed at least 25 people in Haiti and 16 in Cuba earlier this month.

Forecasters have predicted up to 15 Atlantic tropical storms this year, including three to five major hurricanes. The hurricane season began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

07-17-05 1904EDT

Emily slams Yucatan

Thousands of tourists cram into safe havens


Cancun, Mexico _ Hurricane Emily battered Mexico's Caribbean beach resorts yesterday, forcing thousands of tourists out of fancy seafront hotels and into crowded shelters to escape its destruction.

Emily knocked out power lines, blew down trees and whipped up dangerous waves at the popular resort of Cancun and along the ``Maya Riviera'' which is normally a vacation playground of long, white beaches and calm seas. There were no early reports of injury or death.

After killing at least four people in its swing across the Caribbean, Emily hit Mexico's coast as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 215kph. Cozumel island, a popular diving destination, appeared to take the hardest hit.

Emily lost some punch as it moved inland, dropping to a Category 2 hurricane with winds near 175kph, but forecasters said it would probably gather new strength when it heads out over the Gulf of Mexico this morning Thai time.

Mexico shut down most of the offshore wells in its most productive oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, and two major ports that export crude were also closed.

Thousands of tourists cut short their beach vacations and fled for home over the weekend. But many were unable to leave or decided to see it through at makeshift shelters.

``This is my first trip outside the United States and then this happens ... I'm just going to keep praying,'' said Rod Jones, a schoolteacher from Michigan, as he sat nervously in a blacked-out hotel room yesterday morning, clutching a pillow.

Luxury beachfront hotels were boarded up, so inland hotels put up the five-star refugees as well as local residents. Some squeezed in 15 people per room and schools and gymnasiums were also used to protect about 60,000 people.

Soldiers packed 2,000 visitors from three luxury hotels into one gymnasium in Cancun and simply barred the doors.

``I am dying here,'' screamed Spanish tourist Juan Moreno, 27, from Madrid as he banged on a locked iron gate. There was no fan or air conditioning, and hotel staff tried to calm down a woman who was hyperventilating. Many locals who live in ramshackle houses feared for their homes as they packed a few possessions and headed for shelter.

``We live on a ranch about 10km from here and I don't know if the roof is going to bear up. We left everything covered by tarpaulins,'' said Ezequiel Martinez, 53, a welder taking refuge at a shelter in Playa del Carmen.

Many feared a repeat of Hurricane Gilbert, which tore up Cancun in 1988, flattening homes and killing hundreds.

Emily killed four people when a car was swept away by flood waters in Jamaica on Sunday. Two pilots were killed in Mexico on Saturday night when their helicopter was blown by a gust of wind into the Gulf of Mexico during oil rig evacuations.

State oil company Pemex cut off most oil production in the Campeche Sound, the Gulf of Mexico basin that produces 80% of Mexico's crude, and 15,000 oil rig workers were evacuated. Oil prices jumped in response to the supply cut.

Hurricane watches were issued yesterday for the south Texas coast and northeastern Mexico, where Emily is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning after crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

Last night the hurricane's centre was over the Yucatan peninsula, moving west-northwest at 28kph with winds extending 95km from the centre.

Forecasters warned of coastal flooding, big waves and heavy rainfall from Emily, the second major hurricane of the season.

Thousands of tourists had packed into Cancun's airport on Sunday in a desperate and chaotic search for a flight out but a few wanted to remain.

``This is our first hurricane and we want to see it,'' said Jonathan Morisset from Quebec, Canada.REUTERS

Hurricane Emily hits Mexico coast 

 Emily whipped up waves in the popular resort of Cancun 

Hurricane Emily has lashed the Yucatan peninsula on Mexico's Caribbean coast.

Strong winds have felled trees, flooded streets and knocked out power and telephone lines in areas along the coastline popular with tourists.

Emily passed 160km (100 miles) to the south of Jamaica, but left at least four dead after rains caused flooding.

The storm weakened to a category two hurricane as it moved inland, but forecasters say Emily could strengthen as she heads for the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil rigs have been evacuated and production suspended.

Two pilots died in the Gulf of Mexico when their helicopter crashed during an evacuation of a rig.

Mass evacuation

The second major storm of the season hit Mexico's coast as a category four hurricane, with winds of 215km/h (135mph).

Satellite image shows Hurricane Emily about 45 miles east-southeast of Grenada, as the storm approaches the island In pictures: Mexico hit

The US-based National Hurricane Center said the storm made landfall just north of Tulum at 0230 (0630 GMT), with the eye of the storm passing over the island of Cozumel.

The resort city of Playa del Carmen was also among the most affected areas.

Tens of thousands of tourists and locals were evacuated from the region before Emily's arrival.

About 30,000 tourists were moved inland to better-protected hotels, or packed into emergency shelters in community centres and schools.

Cancun's international airport was closed.

Jamaica battered

Emily is expected to make landfall again in north-eastern Mexico or southern Texas, on Wednesday.

Jamaica was spared a direct hit, but the island still suffered flooding and landslides. About 70,000 households lost power and several homes and roads were washed away.

The bodies of a man, woman and two children were found inside a car swept over a cliff by flood water, Jamaican police said.

The Cayman Islands also felt the force of the storm early on Sunday.

Emily comes less than a week after Hurricane Dennis caused more than two dozen deaths as it rampaged through Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and Florida.

On Thursday Emily battered the eastern Caribbean island of Grenada, leaving one person dead.

Grenada is still recovering from Hurricane Ivan last year, which destroyed 90% of homes.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

By Saturday night a curfew had been declared and everyone was inside waiting  

Elaine, George Town, Grand Cayman 

We live in Grand Cayman. Having shuttered everything up for Dennis last week, it didn't take too long to do the same again for Emily this weekend. The shops were still chaotic though, perhaps because we thought we were more at risk from Emily. By Saturday night a curfew had been declared and everyone was inside waiting. The shelters had about 700 people in them. The 11 pm advisory on Saturday had us all worried as it said Emily would come closer. Luckily by 2 am Sunday Emily had changed course again. She passed within 98 miles of us - we had winds of about 45 mph and lots of rain but nothing major. Just as well - after Ivan the island would not survive another bad hurricane.

Elaine, George Town, Grand Cayman

My Godmother and her boyfriend are staying in the Marriott Hotel in Cancun. We phoned them yesterday before the storm, they were to be taken downstairs into the ballroom with all the other guests at about midnight their time, to wait out the storm. I hope she is OK. We are awaiting their txt message.

Rebecca Greaves, Tockwith, York, England

This year has been real hectic here in the Caribbean. Last year was incredible with four big hurricanes going through; this year we have narrowly avoided these latest five. We were hit hard by Hurricane Lenny in 2001, since then we are simply praying and keeping alert. These hurricanes are getting worse, and if global warming is true, then we are going to get more of these. We here in St Kitt's are as prepared as we are going to be. It seems that no amount of preparation, prepares for the emotional and mental shock of actually experiencing one of Nature's wonders and terrors.

Jason Graves, St Kitt's, West Indies (originally from the UK)

Stephen, my nephew, and his girlfriend Ellie are on holiday in Mexico and have been evacuated inland. They have only the clothes they were wearing and we have not heard anything from them for some time as they need to preserve the phone battery.

Stephen Saberton, Pymoor, Ely, Cambs, England

I live in Edinburg, about 60 miles west of Brownsville TX. We are getting worried that the path of Emily may come within 50 miles of Brownsville and we are braced for the threat of flooding rain, heavy winds and tornados. We have already bought bottled water, canned food and other supplies. The locals are pretty laid back about it, some were out mowing their lawns this morning and nobody on my street has boarded up their windows or taken any other visible precautions.

Brian Edwards, Edinburg, Texas, U

Hurricane Emily Gains Strength on Path Back to Mexico 

July 19, 2005 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Emily regained strength after pounding the Yucatan Peninsula and headed across the Gulf of Mexico toward northeast Mexico, prompting residents to brace for heavy wind and rain.

Emily is a Category 2 hurricane on a five-tier scale of intensity, with sustained winds of about 100 mph (167 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory posted on its Web site at 5 p.m. New York time.

The storm was about 145 miles east-northeast of the coastal town of La Pesca, Mexico, and 160 southeast of Brownsville, Texas. It was moving west-northwest at about 12 mph, with a gradual turn to the West expected late tonight or tomorrow morning, the hurricane center said.

Emily may have winds as high as 130 mph when the storm comes ashore, expected in the Mexican coastal state of Tamaulipas tomorrow morning. A hurricane warning was in effect for northeastern Mexico and the lower Texas coast, meaning hurricane conditions are expected within the next day.

``Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 12 hours or so, and Emily could still become a major Category 3 hurricane before it makes landfall Wednesday morning,'' the center said. A Category 3 storm has winds of 111 mph to 130 mph.

Hurricane Force

Hurricane-force winds extend out as far as 50 miles from the storm center, and forecasters warned of storm-surge flooding of as much as 10 feet (3 meters) above normal tide levels and of ``dangerous battering waves'' near where the storm makes landfall.

Isolated tornadoes may occur in southern Texas tonight and tomorrow, the hurricane center said.

Tamaulipas has declared an orange alert, the second-highest level. In Texas, some residents have voluntarily evacuated, and some special-needs facilities have moved some patients, according to a statement from the Texas Emergency Management Department. The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other aid groups have set up mobile units to assist people who are hit by the storm, according to the state operations center.

Emily forced the evacuation of thousands of people and caused millions of dollars of damage in the Yucatan. The storm slammed into the resort island of Cozumel two days ago as a Category 4 storm, with winds of 131 mph to 155 mph. It then moved across to the mainland, weakening to a Category 2 storm.

People Evacuated

Almost 100,000 people were evacuated to safer areas in Mexico's southeastern states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche ahead of the storm's passage, according to the Web site of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. Areas affected included the Mayan Riviera resort area and the town of Cancun.

Quintana Roo needs at least 284 million pesos ($27 million) for clean-up and health work following the storm, the state government said on its Web site. That estimate doesn't include damage to roads and to 3,000 homes, the state government said.

No deaths were reported, according to the Web sites of Qunitana Roo and Yucatan states. Ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza in Yucatan weren't damaged, authorities said.

Mexico's President Vicente Fox visited Yucatan today and said the government would help citizens who had homes destroyed or damaged by the hurricane. Some agricultural crops and pig farms were also damaged, Fox said.

``We're going to start a replacement program so that you don't lose anything because of the hurricane,'' Fox said in Tizimin, Yucatan, according to a transcript of his comments e- mailed by his office.

Oil Production

Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico's state oil monopoly, said it evacuated about 500 workers from seven off-shore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. They will resume work tomorrow, Pemex said in an e-mailed statement.

The company shut down production in the Campeche Sound of 2.95 million barrels a day, or 86 percent of the country's output, for three days because of the storm. Pemex said it expects to reach normal production by July 22.

Crude oil rose, erasing earlier declines, after a report that production shut down by Emily increased almost tenfold from yesterday. Oil output was down 113,115 barrels a day as of 12:30 p.m. New York time, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore production. That's up from 12,851 barrels yesterday.

Crude for August delivery rose 24 cents to $57.70 a barrel at 5:15 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Earlier, Emily passed across Grenada, killing one person, destroying 120 homes, blowing the roofs of more than 2,200 buildings and causing as much as $110 million in damage, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency said in a statement posted on its Web site. Four people were killed as a result of flooding in Jamaica, OCHA said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Arthur in Washington at Last Updated: July 19, 2005 18:13 EDT

Emily heads for northeastern Mexico

Hurricane warning in effect for lower Texas coast

  Tuesday, July 19, 2005; Posted: 1:01 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Hurricane Emily on Tuesday spun across the Gulf of Mexico closer to northeastern Mexico as forecasters warned South Texas likely will feel the storm's impact when it goes ashore.

With maximum sustained winds near 90 mph (150 kph), Emily is a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, but it could grow into a powerful Category 3 storm before making landfall Wednesday, said the National Hurricane Center in MFlorida.

At 11 a.m. E Emily was 210 miles (337 kilometers) east of La Pesca, Mexico, and 235 miles (378 kilometers) southeast of Brownsville, Texas.

Forecasters said hurricane-force winds extended 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Emily's center, with tropical storm winds spreading as far out as about 145 miles (233 kilometers).

The storm was moving west-northwest at 14 mph (22 kilometers), and forecasters expect it to make a gradual turn toward the west in the next 24 hours, putting it near the coast of Mexico's Tamaulipas state by early Wednesday.

Texas likely will be safe from a direct hit, but if Emily turns as forecast, the lower Rio Grande Valley may receive 5 to 10 inches of rain, with up to 15 inches in isolated pockets.

"Even if the turn does occur, there's going to be some impact on South Texas," said Ed Rappaport, the hurricane center's deputy director. "Even if that track does bend back to the west, the Brownsville area, South Padre Island area, has at least a 70 to 80 percent chance of sustained tropical storm-force winds, perhaps hurricane-force gusts."

Some residents of South Padre Island began to gear up for Emily's approach by boarding up windows and gathering sandbags.

"The worst-case scenario is if the hurricane would turn north on us," said Dan Quant, an official for the island.

Families living in recreational vehicle parks were ordered to evacuate.

Brownsville Mayor Eddie Trevino said that city officials had been preparing for the storm's arrival for days.

"We've been doing everything -- preparing sandbags, cleaning drainage," Trevino said. "We've been advising people in low-lying areas to get to higher ground."

Trevino said that the city expected to open two shelters Tuesday afternoon but added that he did not plan on ordering an evacuation, partly due to road construction in the area.

Two-hundred twenty-five Texas Army National Guard soldiers were activated in case they are needed for hurricane duty, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry told The Associated Press.

An additional 100 Texas State Guard personnel are on standby, according to the AP.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the lower Texas coast from Port Mansfield southward to the Texas-Mexico border, while a hurricane watch remained in effect north of Port Mansfield to Baffin Bay.

A hurricane warning also remained for northeastern Mexico from south of the Texas border and also to La Cruz.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for south of La Cruz to Cabo Rojo, Mexico.

A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours, while a hurricane watch means such conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Emily began July 10 as a tropical depression far out in the Atlantic Ocean. By Thursday, when it crossed the Windward Islands into the Caribbean, the storm was a full-fledged hurricane, blamed for one death in Grenada.

As it moved west, Emily picked up strength dramatically. At least four people were killed in Jamaica as the storm passed by the island to the south.

Residents of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula cleaned up downed trees and other debris Monday after they were pelted overnight by Emily's fury.

Early Monday, the hurricane blasted ashore in the beach resort areas of Quintana Roo state with 135 mph (217 kph) winds, then weakened considerably as it moved across the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Police have so far reported no fatalities from Emily in the coastal areas of Mexico, popular with U.S. tourists. Thousands of locals and tourists emerged Monday afternoon after spending the night crammed in shelters. (Full story)

In Playa del Carmen, a resort south of Cancun, the hurricane downed trees and blew roofs off bungalows, but there appeared to be little structural damage.

Gary Swindler, a Texan who weathered the hurricane with his family in Cozumel, said their hotel was not substantially damaged, though he could see downed trees and debris on the street outside.

"I wouldn't want to go through it again, but it turned out for the best," he said.

Emily's northern eye wall -- the strongest part of the storm -- passed directly over Cozumel. Swindler said the hotel's front door broke through and "things were breaking and crashing. Water was coming through." Guests took refuge in a conference room, he said.

So far, the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season has been particularly active, with five named storms developing in the first six weeks. Two of them -- Emily and Dennis -- developed into major hurricanes.

Dennis killed more than three dozen people last week in Cuba, Haiti and the southern United States.

CNN's Karl Penhaul in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and Chris Lawrence in South Padre Island, Texas, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved
  Associated Press contributed to this report.


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