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25611: (news) Chamberlain: Hurricane-Dennis (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By LEONARDO ALDRIDGE
LES CAYES, July 7 (AP) -- Hurricane Dennis dumped heavy rain on Haiti
and its winds strengthened to 105 mph Thursday as it spun toward Jamaica.
Hurricane warnings were posted in the Florida Keys and Cuba, including at
the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, and forecasters said the storm could
hit anywhere from Florida to Louisiana.
Thunderstorms covered the Dominican Republic. Rivers burst their banks
in dangerously deforested southern Haiti, where gusts uprooted a palm tree
and flung it into a mud hut, injuring two people who were hospitalized in
southern Les Cayes town.
Dennis grew to a Category 2 hurricane Thursday morning, becoming the
third storm to threaten petroleum output in the Gulf of Mexico. Private
forecaster AccuWeather put the storm right into U.S. oil and gas producing
Oil futures rose sharply Wednesday on concerns about Dennis but were
down nearly $2 Thursday morning at $59.35 a barrel, as a series of
terrorist blasts in London led investors to abandon riskier investments.
The hurricane follows Tropical Storm Cindy, which made landfall late
Tuesday in Louisiana and hindered oil production and refining. On Thursday,
remnants of Cindy hit parts of the Carolinas, prompting flash flood and
The Cayman Islands were on hurricane watch, and the southern Florida
peninsula was on tropical storm watch, expecting severe conditions within
36 hours. Forecasters at the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm
could strike the United States on Sunday or Monday.
"It is possible that Dennis may become a major hurricane," the center
Lead forecaster Martin Nelson said it was the first time the Atlantic
hurricane season had four named storms this early since record-keeping
began in 1851. The season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
By Thursday morning, Dennis's sustained wind reached nearly 105 mph with
higher gusts, the U.S. National Weather Service said. The storm, the first
hurricane of the Atlantic season, could dump 20 inches of rain over
mountains in its path, including Jamaica's coffee-producing Blue Mountains,
Tropical storm force winds from Dennis's outer bands had already reached
eastern Jamaica. "Regardless of landfall, Jamaica will have impacts ...
practically all day and into the evening hours," warned forecaster Dave
Roberts of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Last year, 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 -- the poorest country in the Americas -- 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. Torrential rains burst river banks
and irrigation canals and unleashed mudslides that destroyed thousands of
acres of fertile land.
Inside the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, where some 520 terror suspects
are detained, 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, Col. Mike Bumgarner said. He said the military had a
contingency plan to move the prisoners if necessary.
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.
At 11 a.m., the storm was centered 80 miles east of Kingston, Jamaica's
capital, moving toward the northwest at 13 mph, the Hurricane Center said.
Hurricane force winds extended up to 45 miles from the center and tropical
storm force winds another 140 miles.
Radio stations in Haiti and Jamaica warned people to stay away from
rivers that could overflow their banks.
In southern Les Cayes, Jose Luis Paez, assistant chief of operations for
U.N. civilian police, said 600 civilian police were trying to evacuate
people from low-lying areas, but some refused to leave.
Jasmine Romelus, a 22-year-old student, was among them. "Hurricane?" she
asked. "They always say there's going to be a hurricane and it never
Hundreds of farmers and fishermen in the eastern Jamaica parish of St.
Thomas also were cut off by flood waters. Emergency officials urged coastal
residents -- a large percentage of the population of 2.6 million -- to move
inland and ordered schools closed until Friday so they could be used as
shelters. Airports at Kingston and Montego Bay were closed, and Air Jamaica
canceled all flights.
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
called on Jamaicans to prepare "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.