Category 4 Hurricane Dennis; Batters Cuba, Eyes Fla.

July 8, 2005

Hurricane Dennis has become a powerful storm of Ivan like proportions. As it churned through the warm waters of the Caribbean, Dennis picked up strength and size.

The latest report from Miami’s National Hurricane Center said its maximum sustained winds are near 135 mph (215 km/hr.) with higher gusts, making Dennis a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which goes to 5. The NHC said “some additional strengthening is possible while the center of Dennis remains over water. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 50 miles (85 kms) from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles (220 kms.)

Dennis is currently battering Eastern Cuba, but the NHC notes that that the eye of the storm is running parallel to the South coast of the island, which would indicate that it will lose less force. A hurricane warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of La Habana, Ciudad de la Habana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Guantanamo. A hurricane watch remains in effect for the Isle of Youth and Pinar del Rio.

The NHC has also issued a “hurricane warning for the lower Florida Keys from the seven mile bridge westward to the Dry Tortugas. A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch is in effect for the remainder of the Florida Keys, east of the seven mile bridge to Ocean Reef and Florida Bay.” Tropical storm warnings have also been issued for Florida’s West Coast. (See related article in “Southeast’).

Elsewhere in the Caribbean the NHC said a hurricane warning remains in effect for all of Jamaica and all of the Cayman Islands; however, if Dennis continues to move northwest, these will probably be downgraded or removed. The NHC said the storm is currently moving at about 15 mph (24 Km/hr) in that general direction, and is expected to do so for the next 24 hours.

“Central pressure just reported by a reconnaissance plane was 955 mb/28.20 inches,” the bulletin continued. “Dennis is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 4 to 8 inches (6.1 to 9.2 cms.] over extreme Southern Florida and the Florida Keys, with 5 to 10 inches [7.7 to 1.54 cms] over Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands. Isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches [23 cms] are possible over the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Southeastern Cuba.” Such heavy rain could well cause flash flooding and mud slides. The NHC also predicts a storm surge of from 5 to 7 feet [1.6 to 2.1 meters] above normal tide levels, “along with large and dangerous battering waves.”

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