Jamaica Prepares for Tropical Storm Sandy
Jamaicans stocked up on supplies and reinforced roofs on Tuesday ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to hit the Caribbean island of posh resorts and sprawling shantytowns as a hurricane with lashing rain and wind.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was churning over warm Caribbean waters and should reach Jamaica on Wednesday afternoon, most likely as a Category 1 hurricane. The late-season storm is expected to travel from south to north over the island, which local meteorologists say hasn't sustained a direct hit from a hurricane's eye since powerful Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
Acting Prime Minister Peter Phillips said "all Jamaicans must take the threat of this storm seriously" and asked people to look out for their neighbors, especially children, the elderly and the disabled.
Hurricane conditions were possible in eastern Cuba by Wednesday night. The storm is forecast to pass near but miss the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
On Tuesday night, the outer bands of Sandy drenched parts of Jamaica with steady rain that sent brown water rushing down streets and gullies. Tropical storm winds were expected to hit early Wednesday. By 11 p.m. EDT, there was hardly a breeze in Kingston, the island's capital and biggest city.
Schools, government offices and Kingston's port shut down early and the country's international airports prepared to close Wednesday morning.
Jamaica's government issued a hurricane warning on Tuesday morning and announced schools would close on Wednesday. It has urged people in flood-prone areas to be on alert and advised fishermen on outlying cays to return to the mainland. There were reports in local media saying roughly 100 fishermen were stranded on the lobster- and conch-rich Pedro Cays because they didn't have enough fuel for the journey.
Sandy on Monday became the 18th named storm of this year's busy Atlantic season, which officially ends Nov. 30.
(The Associated Press)