KINGSTON, Jamaica – Galvanized by a catastrophe just over the horizon and rushing toward them, residents of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands fortified themselves Saturday night for the 150-mph onslaught of Hurricane Dean.
“Let us band together and unite in the threat of this hurricane,” said Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who ordered shelters opened across an island growing grimly aware of the horror that could arrive today.
Dean was predicted to pound Jamaica with sustained winds as high as 155 mph – and gusts even more explosive. Twenty inches of rain and a 9-foot storm surge could inundate parts of the island. It could be the most destructive storm to strike Jamaica in more than a century.
“I just want to get anywhere in the U.S.,” said Barb Kebbler, of Maryland, one of the hundreds of tourists who jammed into Montego Bay’s airport, hoping to catch a last flight out.
Dean exploded into a ferocious threat as it roared through the warm Caribbean, already striking glancing – but powerful – blows at Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
At one point Saturday, the wind around Dean’s core built to 150 mph, just 6 mph below the threshold of a Category 5 storm, the highest on the scale.
In Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, a boy was pulled into the ocean and drowned while watching waves kicked up by the storm strike an oceanfront boulevard, the emergency operations center reported. The rough waves also destroyed five houses and damaged 15 along the Dominican coast, emergency officials said.
The outer bands of the storm were expected to bring as much as 10 inches of rain to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the island of Hispaniola.
“This is not a movie; this is reality,” police officers in Santo Domingo hollered as the aroused Caribbean flung rocks toward the city’s usually picturesque boardwalk.
In Haiti, residents of the hillside neighborhood of Martissant took it upon themselves to dig out the trash that plugged the area’s open sewers.
Still, many felt helpless. Rain-generated landslides are frequent mass killers in the deforested nation and Dean already killed at least three people in Dominica and St. Lucia.
Dean was passing south of South Florida, though its secondary effects will elevate offshore seas through Monday and pump some rain and wind into the region.
The storm will reach the Gulf of Mexico this week – and then strike the Gulf Coast, possibly near the Texas-Mexico border.
But it was Jamaica and the Caymans that shuddered most immediately and directly in the line of fire. Dean’s core could drill directly through those islands.