Hurricane Sandy hits Bahamas, takes aim at U.S.

Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Bahamas on Thursday after slashing across eastern Cuba. The Category 2 hurricane killed four people in the Caribbean.

NOAA

Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Bahamas on Thursday after slashing across eastern Cuba. The Category 2 hurricane killed four people in the Caribbean.

Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Bahamas on Thursday after slashing across eastern Cuba. The Category 2 hurricane killed four people in the Caribbean.

NOAA

Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Bahamas on Thursday after slashing across eastern Cuba. The Category 2 hurricane killed four people in the Caribbean.

FORT LAUDERDALE — With its winds, rain and clouds blanketing South Florida, Category 2 Hurricane Sandy struck the southern Bahamas on Thursday afternoon.

The projected path continues to keep the core clear of Florida, but much of the state can expect gusty winds and potentially heavy rains, with the worst conditions arriving Thursday night and continuing through the day on Friday.

At 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sandy was in the Atlantic about 125 miles southeast of Nassau, sprinting north at 20 mph with sustained winds of 105 mph.

A tropical storm warning has been posted for most of Florida’s east coast, now extending from Flagler Beach south to Ocean Reef.

Because Sandy’s forward progress has increased, the system is expected to be about 250 miles east of Miami in the early morning hours of Friday, earlier than previously forecast.

At that point, it is predicted to have sustained winds of about 100 mph and make its closest approach to the state.

South Florida can expect sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph today, increasing to about 35 to 40 mph tonight and Friday, with gusts up to 50 mph. The region also should see 1 to 2 inches of rain with higher amounts possible.

Central Florida also should see a windy day, with gusts to 30 mph inland and to about 45 at the coast. The region also can expect scattered showers today and Friday.

After Sandy moves north of the Bahamas, it is projected to make a gentle turn northeast into the Atlantic.

The long-range forecast now has Sandy bending back toward the U.S. coastline, possibly taking aim at New Jersey or New York on Tuesday.

The system also is expected to gradually weaken as it moves north, the result of encountering wind shear. It is expected to lose tropical characteristics by Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Sandy lashed Jamaica with howling winds and heavy rains, damaging shantytowns, stranding travelers and causing power outages.

The system also has left two dead: An elderly man was killed in Jamaica when he was crushed by a boulder that rolled onto his clapboard house, and a woman in Haiti was swept away by a rushing river she was trying to cross, The Associated Press reported.

After plowing over Jamaica, Sandy intensified to Category 2 status and hit the eastern Cuba on Wednesday night, ripping roofs off homes, leaving residents without power and damaging coffee and tomato crops. But it caused no fatalities on the island, according to Fox News Latino.

About 5,000 tourists at beach resorts as well as 10,200 residents in Holguin were evacuated ahead of the storm. Also, 3,000 people in Las Tunas moved to higher ground. After the storm passed, residents awoke Thursday to find roads strewn with palm trees and electric poles, according to state-run media.

Despite plowing over mountainous regions, which tend to weaken tropical systems, Sandy maintained its strength. “It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure,” Jose Rubiera, the island’s chief meteorologist, told Fox News Latino.

EARLIER:

Hurricane Sandy makes landfall in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas — Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Bahamas on Thursday after slashing across eastern Cuba, where it ripped off roofs and forced postponement of a hearing at the Guantanamo naval base but caused no reported deaths.

The Category 2 hurricane killed four people elsewhere in the Caribbean, and forecasters warned it will likely cause a super storm in the U.S. next week, mixing with a winter storm whose effects will be felt along the entire East Coast from Florida to Maine and inland to Ohio.

The hurricane was located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Great Exuma Island early Thursday afternoon and it was moving north at 20 mph (32 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph).

Power was already out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, said government administrator Berkeley Williams.

He said his biggest concern is that a boat filled with basic supplies for the island canceled its trip until next week.

"Supplies were low before, so you can imagine what we are going through now," Williams said.

On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded, "we have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down," said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. "But nobody lost a life, that's the important thing."

People across the Bahamas formed long lines to stock up on water, canned goods, flashlights and other items, leaving grocery store shelves nearly empty.

Sooner Halvorson, a 36-year-old hotel owner from Colorado who recently moved to the Bahamas, said she and her husband, Matt, expect to ride out the storm with their two young children, three cats, two dogs and a goat at their Cat Island resort.

"We brought all of our animals inside," she said, though she added that a horse stayed outside. "She's a 40-year-old horse from the island. She's been through tons of hurricanes."

Hurricane Sandy was expected to churn through the central and northwest Bahamas late Thursday and early Friday. It also might bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.

With the storm projected to hit New Jersey with tropical storm-force winds on Tuesday, there is a 90 percent chance that most of the East Coast will get steady gale-force winds, flooding, heavy rain and maybe snow starting Sunday and stretching past Wednesday, said U.S. forecaster Jim Cisco.

In the Bahamas, the massive Atlantis resort went into lockdown mode after dozens of tourists left Paradise Island before the airport closed, said George Markantonis, president and managing director of Kerzner International, which manages the resort. He said the resort is now less than half full, but all its restaurants, casinos and other facilities are still operating.

But other businesses on Paradise Island, where the capital of Nassau is located, remained closed.

Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was killed when a boulder crashed into his clapboard house, police said. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti.

Officials reported flooding across Haiti, where many of the 370,000 people still displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake scrambled for shelter. More than 1,000 people were evacuated from 11 quake settlements, according to the International Organization for Migration.

In Cuba, authorities said they were worried about the damage Hurricane Sandy might have inflicted in small mountain villages still unheard from, but no deaths were reported.

"It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure," said Jose Rubiera, the island's chief meteorologist.

Santiago, Cuba's second largest city near the eastern tip of the island, was spared the worst of the storm, which slammed into the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.

Cuban President Raul Castro ordered authorities to evaluate damage throughout eastern Cuba, and state media said they expected to release more information throughout the day.

There were no reports of injuries at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but there were downed trees and power lines, said Kelly Wirfel, a base spokeswoman. Officials had canceled a military tribunal session scheduled for Thursday for the prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole.

Far out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Tony was weakening and posed no threat to land. The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph (65 kph) and was moving east-northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). Its center was about 715 miles (1,155 kilometers) southwest of the Azores.

EARLIER:

Hurricane Sandy crossing Cuba, heading for Bahamas

Hurricane Sandy rumbled across mountainous eastern Cuba and headed toward the Bahamas on Thursday as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rains and blistering winds that ripped the roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops, but caused no known fatalities on the island.

Two people died elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Even as it pummeled Cuba's rural eastern half, Sandy refused to lose intensity as storms normally do when they cross over land, raising fears that small mountain villages still unheard from might not have been ready for its wrath.

"It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure," said Jose Rubiera, the island's chief meteorologist.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sandy emerged off Cuba's northeast coast around dawn and was moving north at 16 mph (26 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) as it closed in on the central Bahamas.

Late Thursday morning, it was about 65 miles (110 kilometers) south-southwest of Long Island in the Bahamas.

Schools and government offices were closed across the Bahamas on Thursday and some residents in southern Ragged Island already reported downed tree branches. All airports, seaports and bridges in the Bahamas also will remain closed through Friday, the government announced.

Residents of Siboney, just outside the eastern Cuban city of Santiago, reported waves as high as 32 feet (10 meters), with water coming as far as 115 feet (35 meters) inland. In Santiago itself, tin roofs were ripped off some homes, according to resident Yolanda Tabio, a 64-year-old retiree. She said a small Santiago church called San Antonio Claret was damaged, though there were no casualties.

"We're still wet, cleaning up leaves and branches that the wind brought down," she said. "It was very unpleasant."

Despite that, Cuba's second largest city was spared the worst of the storm's force, which slammed into the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.

Some 5,000 tourists at beach resorts in Holguin were evacuated ahead of the storm, along with 10,200 residents, according to Cuban media. Another 3,000 people in low lying areas of Las Tunas were moved away before Sandy arrived.

State-run media said at least 10 homes fell down in Holguin and that there was damage to coffee and tomato crops in Granma province but not as bad as had been feared.

Residents emerged from their homes early Thursday after a night without power, finding palm trees and some electric poles strewn across roads, blocking traffic.

Norje Pupo, a 66-year-old retiree in Holguin, was helping his son clean up early Thursday after an enormous tree toppled over in his garden.

"The hurricane really hit us hard," he said. "As you can see, we were very affected. The houses are not poorly made here, but some may have been damaged."

Still, Pupo said residents were used to such storms and would take the damage in stride. Cuba's communist government is known for its rapid response to natural disasters, and people on the Caribbean's largest island have long years of experience with hurricanes.

"We'll move forward," Pupo said. "We'll get out of this hole as we have many other times before."

There were no reports of injuries at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but there were downed trees and power lines and all non-emergency personnel were still confined to their quarters Thursday after a night of heavy wind and rain, said Kelly Wirfel, a base spokeswoman.

Officials canceled a military tribunal session that had been scheduled for Thursday for the prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole.

The hurricane center said that Sandy would likely still be a hurricane as it passes over the Bahamas later in the day. It also might bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.

A tropical storm warning was extended northward as far as Flagler Beach and a tropical storm watch was issued for the northeastern Florida coast.

Sandy also may combine with other weather systems to create a major storm over the northeastern U.S. next week, according to federal and private forecasters.

"It'll be a rough couple days from Hatteras up to Cape Cod," said forecaster Jim Cisco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction center in College Park, Maryland. "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting."

As Sandy crossed over Jamaica on Wednesday an elderly man was killed by a boulder that crashed into his clapboard house, police said. In southwestern Haiti, a woman died in the town of Camp Perrin after she was swept away by a river she was trying to cross, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of the country's civil protection office.

Jamaican authorities closed the island's international airports and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting. Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm, which made landfall Wednesday afternoon near the capital, Kingston.

In some southern towns on Jamaica, rushing floodwaters carried crocodiles out of their habitat in mangrove thickets. One big croc took up temporary residence in a family's front yard in the city of Portmore.

Stranded business travelers and a smattering of locals rode out the hurricane in hotels clustered along a strip in Kingston's financial district. Some read prayer books or novels, while others watched movies or communicated with loved ones on computers.

Far out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Tony was weakening and posed no threat to land. The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph (65 kph) and was moving east-northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). Its center was 715 miles (1,155 kilometers) southwest of the Azores.

EARLIER:

Hurricane Sandy makes landfall in Cuba as Category 2 storm

Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Cuba as a Category 2 storm and is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas.

NOAA

Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Cuba as a Category 2 storm and is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas.

HOLGUIN, Cuba — Hurricane Sandy rumbled across mountainous eastern Cuba on Thursday as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rains and blistering winds that ripped the roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops, but caused no known fatalities on the island.

Two people died elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Even as it pummeled Cuba's rural eastern half, Sandy refused to lose intensity as storms normally do when they cross over land, raising fears that small mountain villages still unheard from might not have been ready for its wrath.

"It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure," said Jose Rubiera, the island's chief meteorologist.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sandy had emerged off Cuba's northeast coast around dawn and was moving north at 18 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. It was expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas.

Santiago, Cuba's second largest city near the eastern tip of the island, was spared the worst of the storm, which slammed into the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.

Some 5,000 tourists at beach resorts in Holguin were evacuated ahead of the storm, along with 10,200 residents, according to Cuban media. Another 3,000 people in low lying areas of Las Tunas were moved away before Sandy arrived.

State-run media said there was damage to coffee and tomato crops in Granma province but not as bad as had been feared.

Residents emerged from their homes early Thursday after a night without power, finding palm trees and some electric poles strewn across roads, blocking traffic.

Norje Pupo, a 66-year-old retiree in Holguin, was helping his son clean up early Thursday after an enormous tree toppled over in his garden.

"The hurricane really hit us hard," he said. "As you can see, we were very affected. The houses are not poorly made here, but some may have been damaged."

Still, Pupo said residents were used to such storms and would take the damage in stride. Cuba's communist government is known for its rapid response to natural disasters, and people on the Caribbean's largest island have long years of experience with hurricanes.

"We'll move forward," Pupo said. "We'll get out of this whole as we have many other times before."

The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season passed well west of the U.S. naval base at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, where pretrial hearings were being held for a suspect in the deadly 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole off Yemen.

But it knocked out power for most of the 5,500 people living on the base and ripped some non-military boats from tie-downs, leaving them scattered on the beach. Officials said there was no threat to the 166 prisoners.

The hurricane center said that Sandy would likely still be a hurricane as it passes over the Bahamas later in the day. It also might bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.

A tropical storm warning was extended northward as far as Flagler Beach and a tropical storm watch was issued for the northeastern Florida coast.

Sandy also may combine with other weather systems to create a major storm over the northeastern U.S. next week, according to federal and private forecasters.

"It'll be a rough couple days from Hatteras up to Cape Cod," said forecaster Jim Cisco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction center in College Park, Maryland. "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting."

As Sandy crossed over Jamaica on Wednesday an elderly man was killed by a boulder that crashed into his clapboard house, police said. In southwestern Haiti, a woman died in the town of Camp Perrin after she was swept away by a river she was trying to cross, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of the country's civil protection office.

Jamaican authorities closed the island's international airports and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting. Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm, which made landfall Wednesday afternoon near the capital, Kingston.

In some southern towns on Jamaica, rushing floodwaters carried crocodiles out of their habitat in mangrove thickets. One big croc took up temporary residence in a family's front yard in the city of Portmore.

Stranded business travelers and a smattering of locals rode out the hurricane in hotels clustered along a strip in Kingston's financial district. Some read prayer books or novels, while others watched movies or communicated with loved ones on computers.

Far out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Tony was weakening and posed no threat to land. The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph and was moving east-northeast at 23 mph. Its center was 835 miles west-southwest of the Azores.

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