NASSAU, Bahamas — Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early this morning after leaving 29 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm to hit the U.S. East Coast with a super-storm next week.
Sandy knocked out power, flooded roads and cut off islands in the storm-hardened Bahamas as it charged through Cat Island and Eleuthera, with authorities reporting one death in the scattered archipelago.
Sandy, which weakened to a category 1 hurricane Thursday night, caused havoc in Cuba Thursday, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as its howling winds and rain toppled houses and ripped off roofs. Authorities said it was Cuba’s deadliest storm since July 2005, when category 5 Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage.
Sandy also killed one person while battering Jamaica on Wednesday and 16 in Haiti, where heavy rains from the storm’s outer bands caused flooding in the impoverished and deforested country. Police in the Bahamas said a 66-year-old man died after falling from his roof in upscale Lyford Cay late Thursday while trying to repair a window shutter.
This morning, the hurricane’s center was about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north-northeast of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 460 miles (740 kilometers) south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. Sandy was moving north at 6 mph (9 kph) with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph).
Government officials in the Bahamas said the storm seems to have inflicted the greatest damage on Cat Island, which took a direct hit, and Exuma, where there were reports of downed trees, power lines and damage to homes.
“I hope that’s it for the year,” said Veronica Marshall, a 73-year-old hotel owner in Great Exuma. “I thought we would be going into the night, but around 3 o’clock it all died down. I was very happy about that.”
In Long Island, farmers lost most of their crops and several roofs were torn off, said legislator Loretta Butler-Turner. The island is without power and many residents do not have access to fresh water, she said.
With the storm projected to hit the Atlantic coast early Tuesday, there was a 90 percent chance that most of the U.S. East Coast would get steady gale-force winds, flooding, heavy rain and maybe snow starting Sunday and stretching past Wednesday, U.S. forecaster Jim Cisco said.
A new tropical storm watch was issued early this morning for a section of the U.S. East Coast extending from Savannah, Ga., northward to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
In the Bahamas, power was out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, government administrator Berkeley Williams said.
On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded.
“We have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down,” said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. “But nobody lost a life, that’s the important thing.”
Russell, the emergency management official in Nassau, said docks on the western side of Great Inagua island had been destroyed and the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.
Sooner Halvorson, a 36-year-old hotel owner from Colorado who recently moved to the Bahamas, said she and her husband, Matt, expected to ride out the storm with their two young children, three cats, two dogs and a goat at their Cat Island resort.
“We brought all of our animals inside,” she said, though she added that a horse stayed outside. “She’s a 40-year-old horse from the island. She’s been through tons of hurricanes.”
In an announcement at the end of Cuba’s Thursday night newscast, Cuban authorities said the island’s 11 dead included a 4-month-old boy who was crushed when his home collapsed and an 84-year-old man in Santiago province.
There were no reports of injuries at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but there were downed trees and power lines, said Kelly Wirfel, a base spokeswoman. Officials canceled a military tribunal session scheduled for Thursday for the prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole.
In Haiti, Joseph Edgard Celestin, a spokesman for the civil protection office, said the country’s death toll stood at 16, including some who died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. He did not provide specifics of how other people died.
Officials reported flooding across Haiti, where many of the 370,000 people still displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake scrambled for shelter. More than 1,000 people were evacuated from 11 quake settlements, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica.
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