Ivan Leaves 15 Dead in Lesser Antilles; Category 5 Storm Heads for Jamaica, Cuba, U.S.

September 9, 2004

At least 9 persons were reported to have died on the Caribbean Island of Grenada, following a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan. A report from the BBC, delayed because of damage to communications facilities, said that 90 percent of the island had been “devastated.” Ivan struck Grenada on Tuesday night with 125-mph (200-km/hr) winds and heavy rainfall.

In an interview with the BBC, Keith Mitchell, Grenada’s Prime Minister, said the island had taken a tremendous hit with “hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.” Grenada’s nutmeg crop, an important export, was severely hit. Mitchell was interviewed aboard a British warship, as his official residence was destroyed by the storm. Six other persons were reported to have died on the islands of Barbados and Tobago, and on the Venezuelan Coast. The BBC said Ivan was “thought to be the worst [storm] to hit the Caribbean in a decade.”

The hurricane is now over open water, where it has increased in size and intensity. The National Hurricane Service in Miami called Ivan “extremely dangerous.” It said “recent reports from an Air Force reserve hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds are now near 160 mph (255 km/hr) with higher gusts. This makes Ivan a rare category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.”

The NHC said “some fluctuations in strength are likely. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles (260 km).” The minimum central pressure recently reported by reconnaissance aircraft is an extremely low 925 mb (27.31 inches)

In addition to the high winds the NHC warned of storm surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.8 meters) above normal tide levels, “along with large and dangerous battering waves.” A hurricane warning remains in effect for Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remain in effect for the Guajira peninsula of Colombia, for the entire northern coast of Venezuela and for the entire southwest peninsula of Haiti from the border of the Dominican Republic westward, including Port au Prince.

Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are currently on a hurricane watch, but this is expected to be changed to an official hurricane warning, as Ivan approaches the islands. Preparations are already underway for the storm. Schools have been closed, and fishing boats ordered to return to their ports.

The NHC reported that as of late Wednesday night the storm’s center was located near latitude 13.7 north-longitude 69.5 west or about 85 miles (135 km) Northeast of Aruba in the Dutch Antilles, about 570 miles (915 km) east-southeast of Kingston Jamaica. “Ivan is moving toward the west-northwest near 17 mph (28 km/hr) and this motion is expected to continue with a gradual decrease in forward speed during the next 24 hours, said the NHC. “On this track the center of Ivan should remain well to the north of Aruba and Bonaire during the next several hours and then continue on route toward the area near Jamaica.”

If Ivan continues on the course indicated by the NHC’s charts, It would pass directly over Jamaica by Friday, and would hit western Cuba by late Saturday or early Sunday. Unfortunately the NHC’s current projections also indicate that on that track Ivan would come ashore along the Western Coast of Florida by early next week.

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