Dennis Is First Hurricane of the Season; On Course Towards Jamaica

July 7, 2005

As expected, tropical storm Dennis became Hurricane Dennis yesterday, July 6, when wind speeds exceeded 72 mph (115 km/hr). The storm is currently a category 1 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds near 85 mph (140 km/hr) with higher gusts.

Miami’s National Hurricane Center said Dennis is currently located near latitude 16.7 north/longitude 74.2 west, “or about 160 miles (255 kms) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica and about 235 miles (375 kms) south-southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba.” The hurricane is moving toward the west-northwest at around 15 mph (24 km/hr), and “this general motion is expected to continue during the next 24 hours. On this track Dennis is expected to be over or very near Jamaica later today.”

According to NHC maps and forecasts, Dennis will continue on its northwestward track, bringing it just west of the Florida Keys by Saturday afternoon. If the storm continues on that track – which is hard to predict due to changing weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico – it would make landfall in the U.S. sometime late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Depending on its future trajectory, Dennis could come ashore anywhere from the West coast of Florida to Louisiana, but the most likely track would take it over the Florida Panhandle, a region already hit by last year’s storms.

The NHC notes: “A hurricane warning is in effect for the southwestern peninsula of Haiti from the Dominican Republic border westward, all of Jamaica, all of the Cayman Islands and portions of Eastern Cuba for the provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area within the next 24 hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

“A hurricane watch remains in effect for portions of Central and Eastern Cuba for the provinces of Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas and Holguin. A hurricane warning may be required for portions of the watch area Thursday morning.”

The NHC also warned that “additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours, and Dennis could become a strong category 2 hurricane by the time it reaches Jamaica today. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 kms) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 kms).” It also warned of heavy rainfall in the affected areas.

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