Category 4 Earl batters northeast Caribbean

Causing flooding in low lying areas

AP

Monday, August 30, 2010



SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico Hurricane Earl battered tiny islands across the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and roof-ripping winds today, rapidly intensifying into a major Category 4 storm on a path projected to menace the United States.

Already dangerous with sustained winds of 135 miles per hour (215 kilometres per hour), Earl is expected to gain more strength before potentially brushing the US East Coast this week and bringing deadly rip currents.

In the Caribbean, Earl caused flooding in low-lying areas and damaged homes on islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and St Maarten. Several countries and territories reported power outages. Cruise ships were diverted and flights canceled across the region.

"We are getting a battering with wind and rain," said Martin Gussie, a police officer in Anguilla. Several utility poles were down and a couple of roofs had blown away, and it was still too dangerous to go out and assess the full extent of damage, he said.

The rapid development of Earl, which only became a hurricane Sunday, took some islanders and tourists by surprise.

Wind was already rattling the walls of Lila Elly Ali's wooden house in Anegada, the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands, when she and her son went out to nail the doors shut today.

There were no reports so far of major damage from Earl.

In St Maarten, sand and debris littered the streets, and winds knocked down trees and electricity poles and damaged roofs. But police spokesman Ricardo Henson said there was no extensive damage to property.

In Antigua, at least one home was destroyed but there were no reports of serious injuries. Governor General Dame Louise Agnetha Lake-Tack declared Monday a public holiday to keep islanders off the road and give them a chance to clean up.

Jeremy Collymoore, head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency, said islands such as Antigua and Anguilla appeared to have been spared worse damage because they were raked by the system's northwestern quadrant the most forgiving part.

Mudslides and flooding were still a risk, with 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimetres) of rain forecast to fall on islands including Puerto Rico.

The US Virgin Islands imposed a curfew for tonight.

This afternoon, Earl was about 110 miles (180km) northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and headed west-northwest at 15 mph (24 km/h), according to the centre in Miami. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 70 miles (110km) from its centre.

Also Monday, Tropical Storm Fiona formed behind Earl in the Atlantic east of the Leeward Islands.

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