December 22, 2014

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Hurricane Dean skims Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hurricane Dean pummeled Jamaica with gusting winds and torrential rains Sunday after the prime minister made a last-minute plea for residents to abandon their homes and head for shelter. Many residents ignored the call, however, while tourists holed up in resorts with hurricane-proof walls.

AP
A young boy runs through the rain and wind on a street of Kingston during the passage of Hurricane Dean.

Dean, which had already killed eight people on its destructive march across the Caribbean, triggered evacuation calls from the Cayman Islands to Texas, and forced the space shuttle Endeavour to cut short its mission. Cruise ships changed course to avoid the storm, but some tourists in Jamaica could not get away before the island closed its airports late Saturday.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the first hurricane of the Atlantic season was projected to reach the most dangerous classification, a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 160 mph before plowing into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula on Tuesday. The Mexican mainland or Texas could be hit later.

Forecasters had predicted Dean would hit the Cayman Islands head-on, but on Sunday night revised that and said it would instead likely pass to the south. Still, the islands could get up to 12 inches of rain and tropical-storm strength winds today, said meteorologist Rebecca Wad-dington of the hurricane center.

Hurricane-force winds began lashing Jamaica on Sunday afternoon, Waddington said. But the island was spared a direct hit when Dean’s eye wound up passing just to the south Sunday night.

The government set up more than 1,000 shelters. The storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, was expected to dump up to 20 inches of rain on the island.