Hurricane Dean has strengthened into a major hurricane with winds at 125 mph.
That makes Dean a Category 3 storm.
The first hurricane of the Atlantic season is expected to strengthen over the warm waters of the Caribbean, hit Jamaica on Sunday and climb to Category 4 status before clipping Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It was projected to steer into the Gulf of Mexico by Wednesday, threatening the U.S.-Mexico border area.
The Cayman Island’s National Hurricane Committee declared a Hurricane Alert for the Cayman Islands at 10am today.
The issuance of an Alert signifies that Cayman may begin experiencing storm or hurricane force conditions within the next 48 hours.
NHC’s advice to the Cayman population is to activate emergency plans and monitor news reports closely. The public is advised to begin taking stock of the status of their hurricane preparedness now.
Public Works Department is starting to shutter government buildings this morning.
Hurricane Dean tore through the eastern Caribbean islands of St. Lucia and Martinique on Friday, terrifying residents with powerful winds that ripped roofs from buildings, downed trees and knocked out power.
The eye of Dean, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, passed between St. Lucia and Martinique, two eastern Caribbean islands less than 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) apart, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
“We don’t have a roof…everything is exposed. We tried to save what we could,” said Josephine Marcelus in Morne Rouge, a town in the north of the French island of Martinique. “We sealed ourselves in one room, praying that the hurricane stops blowing over Martinique.”
In Martinique’s Epinay district, emergency officials cleared debris off roads to try to get to a family whose roof had blown off. Some roads were impassable from blown-over billboards and other debris.
“I saw the roof of a municipal building fly off. This is a very hard thing to experience right now. The wind is something impressive,” said Louis Joseph Manscour, deputy mayor of Trinite, another town on the island.
Laurent Bigot, director of a Martinique crisis team, warned people to stay inside and be sensible or “we could start grieving for victims.”
The Cayman Islands National Hurricane Committee is urging the population to intensify efforts at readiness, with the current projected path of Hurricane Dean taking the centre of the system very close to the Islands.
If that scenario is realised, the Islands could begin feeling the effects of the system, which is a Category 2 hurricane, within 72 hours.
Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours.
The National Hurricane Committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss potential impact of Hurricane Dean on the Cayman Islands, and anticipates meeting mid-morning and -afternoon today to consider further action. An alert is normally issued when storms or hurricanes would begin affecting the Islands within 48 hours.
All residents are urged to monitor the situation closely as Dean could become a very dangerous hurricane, NHC Chair Donovan Ebanks said, adding that businesses should complete their continuity plans by the close of business on Friday.
‘Business interests are urged to plan for winding up their business at end of work day tomorrow on the basis of completing preparations for Dean, particularly as they won’t have staff on hand at the time of impact,’ said Mr. Ebanks Thursday.
Civil servants should complete securing of offices and related business premises by early tomorrow. All business entities are urged to review their surroundings for loose items that could become dangerous missiles in high winds.
While it is anticipated that Friday will be an otherwise normal working day for civil servants, heads of departments will be issuing a roster (where necessary) to enable those civil servants who need limited time off to complete personal preparations to do so. This will be done in such away to enable the civil service to provide as normal as possible service to the public, while also completing business continuity plans.
Residents are urged to undertake preparatory activities such as clearing lose items from around their houses, stocking up on hurricane supplies — including material for boarding up windows – and, if they do not consider their homes safe, making plans for a suitably safe place to ride out the storm. All members of the public should be aware that there is limited availability of shelter accommodation, so they should make this choice only after they have explored other options.
Dean is moving toward the west near 23 mph and this motion is expected to continue tonight and into tomorrow. On this track the centre of Dean will be crossing the Lesser Antilles early Friday.