Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dean tracking toward Mexico

According to forecasters at the NHC "The Yucatan Peninsula and/or northern Belize look to be the affected areas for now. The track could change somewhat so its a little early to say if a specific area will get the brunt of the strongest winds." While the storm has left a wake of damage in the Caribbean..

Dean's current storm position as of Aug 20 - 21:00 UTC. Dean is now a Category 4 Hurricane and nearing Cat 5 strength, as we go to blog, with maximum winds of 150 mph and a pressure of 918 mb, Latitude: 18.2 Longitude: -84.2.. Weather Bouy 42056 just off the coast of Cancun as of Aug 20 - 22:50 UTC, is reporting; Temperature: 81.1°F, Dewpoint: 78.8°F, Wind: ENE at 49 mph gusting to 67, Wave Height: 31 ft. Interesting enough that SANF1 - Weather Buoy just off the West Keys is reporting as of Aug 20 - 23:00 UTC, Temperature: 85.5°F, Wind: E at 29 mph, gusting to 32, Pressure: 1015.3 mb. Just to show you the impact of the storm.

It is expected to hit the
Yucatan Peninsula early tuesday morning.

Mexico braces itself for Hurricane Dean

The hurricane has battered Jamaica - this is a scene from Kingston, the capital - but there are fears that Mexico and the Cayman Islands could bear the brunt of the storm

The hurricane has battered Jamaica - this is a scene from Kingston, the capital - but there are fears that Mexico and the Cayman Islands could bear the brunt of the storm

The first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season skirted past the Cayman Islands today and raced on towards Mexico's Caribbean coast after battering Jamaica with winds of up to 150 mph overnight.

With the storm still gaining in intensity as it loops westwards across the Caribbean, it had looked like disaster could be looming for the low-lying British tax haven. But in the event the eye of the storm passed some 100 miles south of the islands and officials said that the strongest wind gusts were measured at just 57mph (92kph).

The Cayman Islands government announced that the territory had "been spared the brunt of Hurricane Dean".

The storm has killed at least eight people as it has moved across the Caribbean, although Jamaica also managed to avoid its most deadly effects as the storm barrelled along the island's southern coast last night.

The Jamaican capital, Kingston, was hit by hurricane-force winds which downed power lines, ripped off roofs and blocked roads with debris before spiralling off into the Caribbean in the early hours. But there were no reported deaths and thousands of holidaymakers – including many Britons who took refuge in the most solid buildings – emerged unscathed.

"I think the feeling around here appears to be more of relief than anything else," said Richard Susskind, a Times law columnist who spent the night holed up with his family in a conference centre in a resort near Montego Bay.

"Dawn is beginning to break and although the roads are completely covered in debris from the trees, there is no sign of any radical damage."

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office updated its travel advice for the region and issued a warning to British tourists not to go to the Central American country of Belize, which lies under Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and is now firmly in Dean's sights.

American forecasters said that the storm was projected to become a potentially catastrophic Category Five storm, packing sustained winds of 160mph, as it passes across the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to hit the Yucatan peninsula, a tourist haven, and Belize tomorrow.

"Fluctuations in intensity are common in major hurricanes and are possible in during the next 24 hours," the US National Hurricane Centre reported today. "Dean has the potential to become a Category Five hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean sea on Monday - like Gilbert in 1988 and Wilma in 2005."

That reference to the two most intense storms ever recorded in the Atlantic basin – which between them killed more than 400 people – was guaranteed to strike fear across the region.

Mexico was evacuating some 90,000 tourists from Cancun and other islands of the "Mayan Riviera," as well as some 13,000 workers on more than 140 of its oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Travellers hoping to catch one of the last flights out of the Mexican resort of Cancun before Hurricane Dean's arrival were camped out at the city's airport this morning, sleeping on the terminal floors.

Cancun was ravaged by Hurricane Wilma two years ago – when thousands of tourists were cooped up for days in cramped and unhygienic shelters – and since then the tourist industry has simply spread to the south. This time, the storm appears to be taking aim at one of the newer resorts – Majahual, about 150 miles (250 km) to the south.

Florida Volynskaya, 24, from Baltimore, Maryland, was among those lying on the floor at Cancun airport. "We just wanted to get out anywhere," she said. "We really didn’t want to be in a shelter."

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry has ordered elderly people in the Rio Grande Valley region to be evacuated in case Dean’s track takes it in a more northerly direction, which could put it over the southern tip of Texas by Thursday.

As of 1200 GMT, Dean was centred about 440 miles (710km) east of Belize City and travelling west at about 21 mph (33 kph), the National Hurricane Centre said.

In Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller, the Prime Minister, announced a one-month state of emergency, giving security forces wider powers to deal with looters. Ms Miller also suggested that national elections scheduled for August 27 should be delayed, appealing to her political opponents to "put their differences aside".

The hurricane whipped up giant surf around the Jamaican coast and dumped inches of rain on the island. Roads were blocked by fallen trees and flooded in the eastern parts of the island, with power cuts affecting thousands of homes.

"The sea has dumped debris onto the roads," said Bobby Montague, the Portland parish mayor, as the storm surged by.

Jamaica’s airports have been shut since Saturday, and more than 4,500 people have packed into hundreds of shelters opened up by the government around the island amid bitter memories of Hurricane Ivan which killed 17 people and destroyed thousands of homes in 2004.

Ms Miller called on all off-duty police officers, firefighters and prison warders to report for work, while electricity was turned off on the national grid as a safety measure. The Jamaica Public Service Company said more than 135,000 customers were without power.

In Cuba, just to the north of Jamaica, authorities had evacuated some 150,000 people from six eastern provinces to save them from possible flooding.

Hurricane Dean earlier brushed past Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, lashing it with heavy rain and gale-force winds. Two people were killed in Haiti’s southeastern town of Moron and southern Tiburon, Haitian officials said, and more than 1,000 people evacuated from low-lying areas.

Two people were also killed in the French territory of Martinique, while authorities in the Dominican Republic, where a 16-year-old boy was killed when he was swept away by huge waves, gave warning of the danger of landslides.

Lets take a look at Hurricane from space.

More Jamaica footage!

Cancun beach 12 hours before Dean

A note for our Aussie readers...

Warning: Dangerous surf expected

20 August 2007

A severe weather warning has been issued for the Sunshine Coast tonight and tomorrow, with people warned to stay clear of the open ocean. The Bureau of Meteorology said a low was developing near Fraser Island and is expected to deepen and move south, just to the east of Brisbane. Large seas are likely to develop overnight and affect the Gold Coast at first, before extending to the Sunshine Coast by late Tuesday. The State Emergency Service warned people in affected areas to stay away from the open ocean, as large waves and rip currents may develop. Gale-force winds are also expected, with damaging gusts up to 90kmh likely in exposed areas of the Gold Coast early tomorrow morning and up towards Fraser Island by late in the day. An updated warning is expected this evening. For further information, go to the Bureau of Meteorology website.