Hurricane Omar Grows into Category 3 in Caribbean

October 16, 2008 at 12:55 am Leave a comment

hurricane-omar.jpgOmar strengthened into a fierce Category 3 hurricane late Wednesday as
it pummeled St. Croix with heavy rains and winds, sinking boats in the
harbor, knocking down trees and forcing workers to shut down a major
oil refinery.

The fast-growing hurricane was roaring toward the U.S. and British
Virgin Islands with top winds of 115 mph. Omar’s center appeared set to
edge passed the tiny tourist islands, but forecasters warned they could
still get hit.

“It could thread the needle, but any kind of track deviation and any of
those islands will be clobbered,” said Jack Beven of the U.S. National
Hurricane Center in Miami.

At the Caravelle Hotel in St. Croix, maintenance worker Mike Parish was
working by the light from generators in a vain effort to keep rain
water from blowing in beneath the door. Authorities cut electricity
across the island as a precaution.

“We’re are doing all we can. The water is too much for us,” Parish said.

The storm sank at least two 30-foot boats in Christiansted harbor as it approached from the southwest.

On the nearby Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the storm flooded roads
and downed tree branches. One death was reported on Puerto Rico’s tiny
island of Culebra. Authorities say a 55-year-old man collapsed from
cardiac arrest while trying to install storm shutters on his house.

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John deJongh closed all public schools, told
government employees to head home at midmorning and imposed a 6 p.m.
curfew for all islands. He also activated the National Guard.

“Take this very seriously,” he said. “Folks are out right now doing
their last minute shopping, and that’s understandable. Once that’s
done, we encourage them to go home.”

Police rescued several stranded motorists from flooded roads Wednesday
afternoon. Police Commissioner James H. McCall warned that anyone found
on the roads after curfew would be taken into custody.

Jerry Comparitivo, a teacher who lives in St. Croix, said he could see dark clouds gathering as the sun set.

“I am tying up the loose ends right now, and getting ready with my
family to hunker down for what could be a very eventful night,” he said.

In the British Virgin Islands, residents flocked to supermarkets for supplies.

“Hospitals are in emergency mode,” said government spokeswoman Sandra Ward.

In St. Croix, the Hovensa LLC oil refinery, among the 10 largest in the
world, was shutting down until after the storm passes, said spokesman
Alex Moorehead. St. Croix is the most-populous of the U.S. Virgin
Islands with more than 50,000 people.

Most residents spent the day securing their homes and making sure they had enough food, water and batteries.

“I plan to stay up all night and ride out the storm, but I have a
feeling it’s going to be very bad,” said Helino Cruz, a Hovensa retiree.

Source: ABC News

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