Hurricane Sandy 3-day forecast track. NHC/NOAA graphic
By Caribbean News Now contributor
MIAMI, USA -- As category 2 Hurricane Sandy roared through the islands of The Bahamas on Thursday, residents of Jamaica and Cuba were left to pick up the pieces following the storm’s earlier landfall on those Caribbean islands.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the Ragged Islands in the southeastern Bahamas, the central Bahamas and the northwestern Bahamas. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the remainder of the southeastern Bahamas.
According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Thursday, the centre of Hurricane Sandy was located about 60 miles southeast of Eleuthera in The Bahamas and about 125 miles east-southeast of Nassau, moving toward the north near 20 mph. A turn toward the northwest and a decrease in forward speed were expected Thursday night and Friday, followed by a turn back toward the north and north-northeast Friday night and Saturday. On the forecast track, the centre of Sandy was expected to continue moving through the central Bahamas on Thursday night and move near the northwestern Bahamas on Friday.
Maximum sustained winds were near 105 mph, with higher gusts. Sandy is a category two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Some weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours but Sandy is expected to remain a hurricane for the next couple of days. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 205 miles. Sandy is expected to grow larger in size during the next couple of days.
Hurricane conditions were expected to continue spreading across the central Bahamas on Thursday evening and were expected to reach the northwestern Bahamas Thursday night and Friday.
Sandy is expected to produce total rainfall amounts of 6 to 12 inches across Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches possible. These rains may produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, especially in areas of mountainous terrain. Rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches are expected over portions of the Bahamas, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches possible.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters.
Some flooding was reported in low lying areas on Exuma in The Bahamas, but minimal damage, including downed trees and power lines.
Several residents and officials on islands affected by Sandy reported throughout the day that they were without cellular service on Thursday morning, and electricity was intermittent.
There were reported service disruptions on Rum Cay where all land line and cell phones services were down, and it was similar situation on Cay Island, with the exception of Arthurs Town near New Bight.
There were also service disruptions on Acklins Island and certain parts of Abaco, primarily for mobile customers on those islands.
The more remote island were on battery backup power and could eventually lose service after a few hours.
Farmers in Long Island have reported massive crop loss, said area MP Loretta Butler-Turner.
She said the news of the damage is a blow to the farmers who had just recovered their crop levels after the wrath of Tropical Storm Noel in 2007. The MP said she had no reports of livestock loss, however.
Butler-Turner said her constituents have also complained of roof damage to homes and the government administrative complex in Clarence Town as a result of the category two storm.
She added that a few electrical poles and telephone lines were knocked down during Sandy’s passage and that there was no access to emergency numbers.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica, where one person died and property was damaged across the eastern side of the island, up to late Thursday afternoon, workmen from the National Works Agency (NWA) had managed to re-open just over 40 roadways that had been blocked by debris during the passage of Hurricane Sandy across the Island on Wednesday.
This is out of a total of 150 which had been blocked by debris, inclusive of fallen trees and silt, the NWA’s communications and customer services manager, Stephen Shaw, reported.
Shaw pointed out that the roadways have been re-opened to single lane access, with priority being given to corridors in the parishes of St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Thomas, which were reportedly among the hardest hit.
While pointing to the challenges which the crews have been experiencing with lingering rains from the hurricane, and the volume of debris encountered, Shaw assured that "our teams are out and we are making special efforts to have blocked corridors opened as quickly as possible."
Shaw was, however, unable to provide an estimate of the damage, as this exercise is still to be completed.
Education Minister, Ronald Thwaites, said preliminary reports from across the island revealed that, while the damage to schools in some areas was significant, it was not devastating and could have been much worse.
He reported that the problem areas were in the parishes of St Mary, Portland, St Thomas and Kingston and St Andrew. "The other parishes, it appears, have been spared," said Thwaites.
While not able to give an early estimate of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to the education sector, Thwaites said: "We are going to have to see where we can scrimp and save and divert funds from programmes that are not immediately on stream and make sure that the children of Jamaica have the best possible environment."
Senior Director, Commercial Development and Planning, at the Airports Authority of Jamaica, Alfred McDonald, reported that both international airports are now open for regular operations.
The Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, which has been opened since 10 am Thursday, as well as the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, opened since 7:00 am, were closed during the passage of Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday.
"Both international airports are opened and doing their regular processing of passengers. The airlines as well as airport staff are doing what they need to do to get business going as usual," McDonald said on Thursday.
He nevertheless advised passengers to call the airlines to ensure that they get up-to-date information on flight schedules, as some flights have been delayed.
"Persons who have to travel, or those who are coming to pick up their friends and relatives would need to call the airlines first to ensure that the flights are in fact going out on time or coming in at the designated times. So, it’s always good to check with the airlines first before making your way to the airport," he said.
In the meantime, speaking specifically to the accessibility of the roads leading to the Norman Manley International Airport, McDonald said that "these access roads to the airport are in fact open."
"The Port Royal road and the Palisadoes road stood up very well to the hurricane and passengers, well wishers, and greeters shouldn’t have a difficulty getting to the airport," he said.
In Cuba, local radio reported that one person had been killed in the storm, which hit southeastern Cuba early on Thursday with 105-mph winds that cut power, damaged homes and blew over trees across the city of Santiago de Cuba.
Hurricane Sandy grew into a major potential threat to the Northeast on Thursday after hammering Cuba's second-largest city and taking aim at the Bahamas.
In the city of Guantanamo, east of Santiago de Cuba, local television showed telephone poles fallen across narrow streets filled with downed cables. Historic buildings in the city center were damaged, reporters said.
One person also died in Haiti, where Sandy triggered flash floods.