Ivan the Terrible Bears Down on Jamaica

September 10, 2004

As Hurricane Ivan continues on its deadly path through the Caribbean, people in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are bracing for its arrival.

Jamaica is directly in the path of the powerful storm, which is packing sustained winds of 145 mph (230 km/hr) with higher gusts. Miami’s National Hurricane Center warned that “fluctuations in intensity are likely and Ivan could become even stronger as it nears Jamaica.”

Ivan is the most powerful hurricane to hit the region in decades; its intensity fluctuates between a category 4 and a category 5 storm on the Saffir/Simpson scale. It has left at least 20 people dead in its wake. The island of Grenada was particularly hard hit. The BBC reported that 90 percent of the island has been devastated by the 125 mph (200 km/hr) winds, rain and high tides. In the capital, St. George’s, a number of buildings were destroyed or damaged, including the governor’s mansion, the city’s emergency center, the local prison, many schools and the main hospital.

Jamaican authorities have already ordered the evacuation of nearly half a million from coastal areas, as high tides and winds become more threatening. Schools, airports and other public building have been closed.

Its been 16 years since a major hurricane struck the island, but reports indicate that its residents are remaining calm – stocking up on supplies, boarding up windows and nailing down roofs. All of Jamaica’s emergency services are on high alert.

As of early Friday morning Hurricane Ivan’s center was about 225 miles (360 km) southeast of Kingston. The storm continues to move toward the west-northwest, but has slowed somewhat to around 13 mph (20 km/hr). Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 50 miles (85 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).

The NHC said “a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remain in effect for the entire southwest peninsula of Haiti from the border of the Dominican Republic westward, including Port au Prince. A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning are in effect for the Dominican republic from Barahona to Perdenales. A tropical storm watch remains in effect for the southwestern coast of the Dominican Republic from Palenque westward to Barahona. A hurricane watch is in effect for central and eastern Cuba from Matanzas eastward. Tropical storm or hurricane warnings may be required for portions of southeastern Cuba later this morning.”

If Ivan continues on its present track, it would pass directly over Western Cuba on Sunday. The NHC’s chart shows a slight shift to the west in the storm’s predicted path, but that course would still take it over the Florida Keys, the West Coast of Florida and the Panhandle.

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