Grow­ing Hur­ri­cane Earl threat­ens north Caribbean

The Pak Banker - - International -

SAN JUAN: Hur­ri­cane Earl lashed north­ern Lee­ward Is­lands with heavy rain and strong winds Mon­day af­ter strength­en­ing into a Cat­e­gory 2 storm. Ho­tels were shut tightly overnight as tourists sought shel­ter in­side their rooms.

The U.S. Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter in Mi­ami said Earl could be­come a ma­jor hur­ri­cane Mon­day night or early Tues­day.

"It is pos­si­ble that Earl could be­come a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane as we get into the mid­dle to late por­tions of the week," hur­ri­cane cen­ter spe­cial­ist Michael Bren­nan said.

Hur­ri­cane warn­ings were in ef­fect for An­tigua, Bar­buda, Montser­rat, St. Kitts, Ne­vis, An­guilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eus­tatius, the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands.

Steady bands of rain be­gan fall­ing late Sun­day on is­lands in­clud­ing An­tigua, where the Grand Pineap­ple Beach Re­sort on the north side bat­tened down early as a pre­cau­tion.

Winds were heavy but had not caused any ma­jor dam­age, and the surf was higher than nor­mal but not pun­ish­ing, gen­eral man­ager Court­ney Miller told The As­so­ci­ated Press by phone.

Ear­lier Sun­day, is­lan­ders stocked up on food, wa­ter and sup­plies, set up shel­ters and tied down boats in har­bors across the north­ern Caribbean as Earl blew to­ward the re­gion.

An­tigua's V.C. Bird In­ter­na­tional Air­port closed, and re­gional air­lines LIAT and Wi­nair sus­pended flights. Cruise ships di­verted to other ports in the Caribbean and Mex­ico to avoid the storm's path.

In St. Kitts and Ne­vis, au­thor­i­ties urged peo­ple to take all nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions for the hur­ri­cane, which is dwarf­ing the tiny is­land na­tions and territories of the north­ern Caribbean.

"We re­ally don't want any loss of life, whether by per­sons who are care­less or by se­cu­rity or emer­gency per­sons try­ing to res­cue peo­ple," said Carl Her­bert, head of the lo­cal emer­gency man­age­ment agency.

Hard­ware stores did a brisk busi­ness in ply­wood and boards as jit­tery res­i­dents and em­ploy­ees of gleam­ing tourist ho­tels pre­pared to safe­guard win­dows and doors.

"We haven't been hit for quite a few years, but you may never know - this might be the time," said Ashley Benta, from the An­tiguan town of Gray's Farm.

Early Mon­day, Earl was about 50 miles (75 kilo­me­ters) east-north­east of St. Martin and headed west-north­west at 15 mph (24 kph), ac­cord­ing to the cen­ter in Mi­ami. Hur­ri­cane­force winds ex­tended out­ward up to 50 miles (85 kilo­me­ters) from its cen­ter.

Earl be­came a hur­ri­cane Sun­day morn­ing and has con­tin­ued to grow rapidly in strength, fu­eled by warm ocean tem­per­a­tures of 86 F (30 C).

Earl could bring bat­ter­ing waves and storm surges of up to four feet (1.2 me­ters) above nor­mal on some is­lands, as well as down­pours that threaten to un­leash flash floods and mud­slides.

Fore­cast­ers say there is a chance the hur­ri­cane could brush the U.S. Mid-At­lantic re­gion to­ward the end of the week, with its clos­est ap­proach to North Carolina on Thurs­day.

In any case, the U.S. East Coast is likely to see pounding surf.

"Folks from the Caroli­nas north­ward through the MidAt­lantic and New Eng­land need to be pay­ing at­ten­tion to Earl and the fore­casts as they get up­dated through the week," Bren­nan said. -PB News

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