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25586: (news) Chamberlain: Tropical Weather-Dennis (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By LEONARDO ALDRIDGE
MIRAGOANE, Haiti, July 6 (AP) -- Dennis approached hurricane strength
Wednesday, and threatened Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba
on a path that would take it near the Alabama-Florida border by this the
weekend, forecasters said.
Coming right behind Tropical Storm Cindy, which made landfall late
Tuesday in Louisiana, Dennis has helped push oil and gas prices sharply
Packing sustained winds near 70 mph, the second storm of the Atlantic
season could dump up to 10 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.
"It is a minimal hurricane right now" though its winds were 4 mph shy of
official hurricane strength, said the hurricane center's lead forecaster
Meteorologist Chris Hennon said the section threatening Haiti "is
typically the worst part of the storm" in terms of wind strength and rains.
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.
Haiti took the deadliest hit of the 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.
At 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, the storm was centered about 180 miles from
Haiti's south coast and was moving to the west-northwest near 14 mph, the
Hurricane Center said. Storm-force winds extended 85 miles.
Hurricane warnings were posted Wednesday for Jamaica and Haiti's
southwest peninsula. Hurricane watches were in effect for Cayman Islands
and eastern Cuba, including the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where
some 540 terror suspects are detained.
The detention facilities and troop housing at Guantanamo are built to
withstand winds up to 90 mph, and the storm wasn't expected to reach that
strength near Cuba, said Navy Cmdr. Anne Reese.
The highest winds were expected to hit Guantanamo between 4 a.m. and 11
a.m. Thursday, and the military base could see some power lines knocked
down and roofs damaged, she said.
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 burst their banks. Some southern roads in Haiti, which is
dangerously deforested, already were blocked by flooding Wednesday
The Hurricane Center warned the rains could bring "life-threatening
flash floods and mudslides."
Meteorologist Esterlin Marcelin of the Haitian weather service said the
whole southern region was in danger.
Poverty-stricken Haitians said there was little they could do.
"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.
Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson abandoned the final day of the
annual Caribbean summit in St. Lucia, to rush home. Before he left, 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."
He urged rural residents to "move our animals in good time to places of
safety so we don't have to cross rivers or streams to rescue them."
Early projections show Dennis passing near Jamaica's eastern tip, home
to the famous Blue Mountains and much of the island's coffee and banana
crop. The area is still recovering from damage wrought last year by
Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed 8,000 homes and killed 17 people.
Associated Press Writer Stevenson Jacobs contributed to this report from