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Tropical Storm Sandy threatens Jamaica (+video)

Tropical Storm Sandy will likely become a hurricane before it strikes land in Jamaica on Wednesday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Jamaicans are preparing for the storm, which may cause flash flooding and landslides. 

By David McFaddenAssociated Press / October 23, 2012

Commuters wait at a bus stop as rain brought by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Sandy falls in Kingston, Jamaica, Tuesday. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sandy was expected to become a hurricane as it nears Jamaica on Wednesday.

AP Photo/Collin Reid

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KINGSTON, Jamaica

Jamaicans stocked up on supplies and reinforced roofs on Tuesday ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to hit the Caribbean island of posh resorts and sprawling shantytowns as a hurricane with lashing rain and wind.

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In Jamaica, residents are stocking up on non-perishable foods and reinforcing roofs on their homes and businesses ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to hit the island as a hurricane with lashing rain and wind.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the strengthening storm was churning over warm Caribbean waters and should reach Jamaica on Wednesday, most likely as a Category 1 hurricane. The late-season storm is expected to travel from south to north over the island, which local meteorologists say hasn't sustained a direct hit from a hurricane's eye since powerful Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.

Acting Prime Minister Peter Phillips said "all Jamaicans must take the threat of this storm seriously" and asked people to look out for their neighbors, especially children, the elderly and the disabled.

Hurricane conditions were possible in eastern Cuba by Wednesday night. The storm is forecast to pass near the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where pretrial hearings are being held for a suspect in the attack on the Navy destroyer the USS Cole. Authorities at the base had considered suspending this week's proceedings, but said that as of late Tuesday they planned to continue despite Sandy.

On Tuesday night, the outer bands of Sandy were drenching parts of Jamaica with steady rain that sent brown water rushing down streets and gullies. Tropical storm winds were expected to hit later in the night or early Wednesday.

Schools, government offices and Kingston's port shut down early and the country's international airports prepared to close Wednesday morning.

The Jamaican Constabulary Force called numerous curfews in neighborhoods across the island to prevent crime and protect properties.

In the poor Kingston community of Standpipe, Christopher "Boxer" Bryce and his relatives were bracing for the worst as they quickly tried to finish repairs to their concrete home's leaking roof.

"This is giving all of us a nervous feeling, old and young. I'm hoping the storm doesn't leave too many problems," said Bryce, as his brother Brian adjusted a plastic bucket to catch more of the water dripping steadily down from the cracked ceiling.

Across a debris-clogged gully, dreadlocked Philip Salmon was trying to find more sheet metal to bolster his shack's rusting roof. The laborer lives by himself in a ramshackle settlement of illegal homes near the U.S. Embassy.

"Everybody's worried about it here, I can tell you. This storm is no small thing," said Salmon, whose sheet metal roof is held in place by rocks, just like that of many of his neighbors.

Two years ago, six members of a family living along a nearby stretch of the gully were swept away during the relatively weak Tropical Storm Nicole after part of their home collapsed into the waterway's raging current. People living in the shantytowns are warned repeatedly to move for their own safety but most refuse to relocate.

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