Sandy Could Have Major Impact on D.C. Region

Hurricane pounds Jamaica

It appears Sandy – the category 1 hurricane over Jamaica Wednesday evening – will chase the D.C. region’s summery weather away in the coming days.

A record for Oct. 24 was tied Wednesday with a high of 84 degrees, but the week’s sunny and warm conditions are coming to an end. Sandy is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves north over the Atlantic Ocean along the East Coast.

The storm’s impact could be felt here by Sunday morning, Storm4 Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer reported. Expect a low impact from wind and rain and a high of about 60 degrees.

Monday likely will be the worst day for D.C., as Sandy could make its way back to the coast, Kammerer said. Heavy rain and strong winds are possible in the D.C. area, so residents should be prepared for power outages and coastal flooding. High temperatures likely will be in the low 50s.

As Sandy’s arrival is a few days away, there remains uncertainty about how she will track, Kammerer said, so stay tuned to News4 for up-to-date forecasts and download the Storm Team 4 Weather app. Search “nbcwashington weather” in the iTunes store and on Google Play.

Sandy Becomes Hurricane on Way to Jamaica

Sandy pounded Jamaica with heavy rain and a powerful storm surge as it headed for landfall Wednesday near the country's most populous city on a track that would carry it across the Caribbean island to Cuba, and then pose a possible threat to Florida. At least one person in nearby Haiti was killed after being swept away by a rushing river.

The island's international airports closed, cruise ships changed their itineraries and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting as the late-season storm neared Jamaica's south coast. Police slowly drove through drenched communities in the capital of Kingston with their cruisers' lights flashing.

The eye of the 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was over the eastern portion of the country Wednesday evening producing 80 mph winds and moving north at 14 mph, Kammerer reported. It’s expected to into eastern Cuba overnight. It was expected to pass west of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where pretrial hearings were being held for a suspect in the deadly 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole off Yemen.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said tropical storm conditions were possible along the southeast Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning. A tropical storm watch also may be required for parts of east-central Florida later Wednesday morning, the center said.

In southwestern Haiti, a woman died in the town of Camp Perrin after she was swept away by a river she was trying to cross, according to Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, head of the country's civil protection office.  There were also reports of extensive damage to Port Salut along Haiti's far-southwestern coast after a river burst its banks. Local municipal official Darius Joseph said some residents had left their flooded homes for shelter in schools and churches.

Across Jamaica, poor people in ramshackle shantytowns and moneyed residents in gated communities were growing increasingly jittery about Sandy's approach. Many sections of the debt-shackled country have crumbling infrastructure, and a lack of building codes has resulted in some middle-class homes and tin-roofed shacks being built close to steep embankments and gullies.

While Jamaica was ravaged by bands from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and other powerful hurricanes centered offshore, the eye of a hurricane hasn't carved across the island since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, according to Jamaican meteorologist Jacqueline Spence.

Stranded business travelers and a smattering of locals were riding out the hurricane in hotels clustered along a strip in Kingston's financial district. Some read prayer books or novels, while others watched movies or communicated with loved ones on computers.

Dangerous flash floods and mudslides were a threat for the tropical island of roughly 2.7 million inhabitants, especially in mountainous areas, Jamaica's meteorological service said.

The storm was predicted to drop as much as 12 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, especially over central and eastern parts of Jamaica, the country's meteorological service said. Some isolated spots could see as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters), according to U.S. forecasters. Battering waves and a strong storm surge were also forecast. By Wednesday morning, sea water was already washing over the streets of Port Royal, a depressed fishing village at the tip of a spit of land near Kingston's airport.

More than 100 fishermen were stranded in outlying Pedro Cays, a lobster- and conch-rich area about 40 miles (66 kilometers) off Jamaica's southern coast. Some of them told local media they lacked fuel to get back to the mainland, but authorities said they willfully disobeyed an evacuation order. 

On the mainland, hundreds of people moved to shelters, but others living in low-lying areas on the mainland refused to evacuate their homes because they were fearful that their possessions would be stolen.

Airports in Kingston and Montego Bay shut down for the day and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced that its Allure of the Seas megaship would not stop at Jamaica's northern Falmouth terminal on Wednesday, remaining at sea instead.

A warning siren wailed across the U.S. base at Guantanamo Wednesday as steady rain fell. The military warned the 5,500 people living on the base to begin storm preparations. Officials say there is no threat to the 166 prisoners.

Elsewhere in Cuba, authorities issued a hurricane watch for several provinces and there were intermittent rains over Haiti, where a tropical storm warning was in effect. A tropical storm warning was also posted for Haiti while a hurricane watch was issued for the central and northwestern Bahamas, where the storm was predicted to pass Thursday.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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