Hurricane Sandy 3-day forecast track. NHC/NOAA graphic
By Caribbean News Now contributor
MIAMI, USA -- Jamaica was battered by high winds and heavy rain on Wednesday as Hurricane Sandy roared across the eastern part of the island. By Wednesday evening, the storm was emerging off Jamaica's northern coast, heading towards Cuba.
Sandy’s landfall five miles east of the capital Kingston was the first direct hit by the eye of a hurricane on Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
Authorities closed the island's international airports and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting. Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm.
At least one person was killed in nearby Haiti after being swept away by a rushing river and in Cuba residents in the province of Holguin were evacuated from areas subject to flooding risk.
Meanwhile, in The Bahamas, all schools – public and private – and all government offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday. Airports, seaports and bridges will also close as of 7 am on Thursday and Friday and businesses, including banks, were also advised to remain closed on Thursday and Friday, based on the timeline given by the Met Department that New Providence would be impacted as of 1 pm Thursday.
According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Wednesday, the centre of Hurricane Sandy was located about 25 miles north-northeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and about 125 miles south-southwest of Guantanamo, Cuba, moving toward the north near 14 mph.
This general motion is expected to continue through Thursday night, with an increase in forward speed expected overnight Wednesday and Thursday. A turn toward the north-northwest and a decrease in forward speed are expected on Friday.
On the forecast track, the centre of Sandy will move over portions of eastern Cuba overnight Wednesday; move near or over the central Bahamas on Thursday and Thursday night and move near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Friday.
Maximum sustained winds are near 80 mph, with higher gusts. Sandy is a category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Some weakening is expected as Sandy moves over eastern Cuba, with some restrengthening expected after Sandy moves into The Bahamas. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.
Hurricane conditions are expected to continue in portions of Jamaica for a few hours on Wednesday evening and are also expected to reach eastern Cuba Wednesday evening. Hurricane conditions are expected to spread across the central and northwestern Bahamas late Thursday and Friday.
Sandy is expected to produce total rainfall amounts of 6 to 12 inches across Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba, 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 5 inches are expected over portions of The Bahamas, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters. The water could reach the following depths above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide: Jamaica 1 to 3 ft; southeastern Cuba 3 to 5 ft; central and northwestern Bahamas 5 to 8 ft. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle and can vary greatly over short distances.
Summary of watches and warnings in effect:
A hurricane warning is in effect for:
• Cuban Provinces of Camaguey, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de
• Cuba, Holguin and Guantanamo
• The Central Bahamas
• The Northwestern Bahamas
A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
• Florida East Coast from Ocean Reef to Sebastian Inlet
A tropical storm watch is in effect for:
• The Southeastern Bahamas
• Florida East Coast from North of Sebastian Inlet to Flagler Beach
• Florida Upper Keys from Ocean Reef to Craig Key
• Florida Bay