Hurricane Irene getting bigger, stronger
Hurricane Irene strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane Monday. Forecasts show it will miss Florida, but Irene may grow as it moves toward the Carolinas.
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At 5 a.m. EDT Irene had top winds of 100 miles per hour and was 50 miles northeast of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.Skip to next paragraph
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'NON-EVENT' IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The storm seemed to have spared the economically important tourist area of Punta Cana as it passed by earlier in the day.
``It was a non-event. ... It was kind of just of rainy day, it could have been a lot worse,'' Mike Bryant, who runs a small adventure tourism company at Punta Cana, told Reuters.
Earlier, Irene buffeted Puerto Rico with winds and heavy rain, knocking out power and downing trees.
In Haiti there were fears that rain from Irene could trigger deadly floods and mudslides in a country still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Forecasters said a low pressure trough over the eastern United States was expected to keep Irene's track to the east, reducing the risk of a direct hit to densely populated south Florida, and steering it instead to the Carolinas.
While the core of the storm was expected to stay out to sea as it moved past Florida, Irene was wide enough for its outer squalls to reach the Florida shore.
Forecasts showed Irene posing no threat to U.S. oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
There were no reports of deaths or major injuries in Puerto Rico but 800,000 people -- half of the island's electricity customers -- were left without power by the storm, which felled trees, swelled rivers over their banks and flooded some roads.
Governor Luis Fortuno said the worst-hit area was the east coast, from Fajardo to Yabucoa, and he had asked the U.S. government to declare Puerto Rico a disaster area so it can gain access to emergency funds.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull in Vineyard Haven, Mass.; Reuters in San Juan; Tom Brown and Jane Sutton in Miami, Ben Berkowitz in New York; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Todd Eastham)