Cayman spared

Hurricane Dean greeted Grand Cayman with heavy winds and high seas but no major damage.

Travel is being restricted in Savannah because the Savannah Gully, which crosses the main road that leads to George Town and into the Eastern Districts, is flooded.

The Fire Service was dispatched this morning to undertake a reconnaissance of the area. Authorities said this morning that if conditions were to require evacuation, residents would be advised and assisted to relocate.

All residents in the area are urged to exercise utmost caution. If homes are flooded, electrical breakers should be turned off. Also, everyone is reminded that wading through water in the midst of stormy conditions is extremely dangerous

The curfew remains in effect on Grand Cayman. Residents are asked to stay in doors and monitor local media. Some residents have ignored the request.

‘The most recent weather reports indicate Hurricane Dean remains a very dangerous Category 4 hurricane. It is located approximately 115 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman, moving at 21 mph and we are experiencing winds of up to 60 mph,” said Governor Stuart Jack.

‘Preliminary reports indicate persons should not take any comfort in the current absence of rain; already there is evidence of flooding in low-lying coastal areas, which is creating significant debris build-up in some roadways.

‘Wave heights of 12 -16 feet are expected to continue through this evening. We have reports of dangerous battering waves pounding the coast and fallen trees inland.

‘These conditions are expected to continue for several hours and, with increasing rainfall, there will be flooding in a number of areas. Therefore, persons are reminded that, for their individual safety, they should stay indoors. The curfew remains in effect and will be strictly enforced,’ he said.

Hurricane Dean skirted the Cayman Islands on Monday and raced toward Mexico’s resort-dotted Caribbean coast, where tens of thousands of tourists fled what could become a mammoth Category 5 storm.

The airport at Mexico’s biggest resort, Cancun, was packed with departing tourists on Monday and the usually crowded hotel strip was nearly empty. Mexico’s state oil company evacuated workers from rigs in the oil-rich Gulf of Campeche, in the storm’s path. Dean is cutting a wide swath, with tropical-storm strength winds covering an area of 75,000 square miles (195,000 square kilometres) – roughly the size of South Dakota.

But there was relief in the Cayman Islands. The government announced the territory “has been spared the brunt of Hurricane Dean.”

Hours earlier, it looked like disaster was descending on the islands as the Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph (240 kph) – bore down late Sunday after battering Jamaica.

“Whichever God you believe in, now is the time to bow your head and pray to him,” evacuation shelter coordinator Zemrie Thompson told 100 people camped for safety Sunday night at John Gray High School.

Dean’s eye passed some 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Cayman Islands and the government said the strongest gusts here were measured at 57 mph (92 kph).

The storm has killed at least eight people as it has moved across the Caribbean.

The storm could reach the highest level, Category 5, with maximum winds greater than 155 mph (249 kph) later Monday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The Cayman Islands authorities had evacuated all but 1,500 tourists and set up 19 storm shelters that housed some 2,200 people.

Jamaica avoided a direct hit when the storm passed to the south Sunday night. There were no deaths reported in Jamaica, but the storm uprooted trees, flooded roads and tore the roofs off many homes, businesses and a prison block. No prisoners escaped.

Several communities in the eastern coastal parish of St. Thomas suffered “extensive damage” including collapsed buildings, according to a preliminary damage report. Downed utility poles severed communications with St. Thomas and left thousands across the island without power.

Police said officers got into a shootout with looters at a shopping centre in the central parish of Clarendon, but nobody was hurt. Curfews were in effect until Monday evening.

Authorities also cut power on the island to prevent damage to the power grid, leaving more than 125,000 customers without power.

As of 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) Monday, Dean was cantered about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of Grand Cayman.

Many tourists who did not get flights out of Jamaica took shelter at places like Sandals Whitehouse, a resort that has buildings capable of withstanding a powerful storm.

Trinice Tyler, a postal worker from Lake Elsinore, California, said she would weather the storm there “on my knees praying.”

“I’m celebrating my 40th birthday today, and it’s going to be a birthday to remember,” she said.

Fishermen hauled their skiffs inland and cruise ships changed their course to avoid the storm on Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center said the first hurricane of the Atlantic season was projected to have sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph) before plowing into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on Tuesday. The Mexican mainland or Texas could be hit later.

There was also a hurricane warning in effect for Belize’s coast.

Among those fleeing Cancun was Florida Volynskaya, 24, of Baltimore, Maryland, who camped out on the airport terminal’s floor awaiting a flight.

“We just wanted to get out anywhere,” she said. “We really didn’t want to be in a shelter.”

Twelve empty planes arrived Sunday to move travellers out, said airport spokesman Eduardo Rivadeneira. The state government also set up 530 shelters with a capacity of 73,000 people.

The hurricane created massive waves and surges up to 20 feet (6 meters) high as it passed the Dominican Republic on Saturday, flooding roads and drowning a boy. At least two people were killed and about 150 homes were destroyed in Haiti, emergency officials said.

People are shown violating curfew in George Town Monday morning as Hurricane Dean was churning through the Caribbean sending winds of 50mph strength to the big island of Grand Cayman. Photo: Brent Fuller

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