KINGSTON, Jamaica – Hurricane Sandy lashed precarious shantytowns, stranded travelers and downed power lines with heavy wind and rain Wednesday as it roared across Jamaica and then headed for an overnight landfall in eastern Cuba and go on to threaten the Bahamas and possibly Florida.
Sandy’s death toll was at least two. An elderly man was killed in Jamaica when he was crushed by a boulder that rolled onto his clapboard house, police reported. Earlier Wednesday, a woman in Haiti was swept away by a rushing river she was trying to cross.
The storm hit Jamaica as a category 1 hurricane then strengthened as it spun over open sea toward Cuba. U.S. forecasters said it had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph late Wednesday and might grow into a category 2 storm before going ashore. It was moving north at about 13 mph and hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from the center.
The hurricane’s eye crossed over Jamaica by Wednesday evening and emerged from its northern coast near the town of Port Antonio, meteorologists said, but rain and winds continued to pound the Caribbean island into the night.
The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was expected to pass over eastern Cuba early today, missing 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 southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the area, the center said.
The storm was predicted to drop as much as 12 inches 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, according to U.S. forecasters.