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Antigua, Caribbean brace for Hurricane Earl

by Staff Writers
St John'S, Antigua And Barbuda (AFP) Aug 29, 2010
Residents of Antigua and Barbuda battened down Sunday as Hurricane Earl churned toward the Caribbean with the threat of heavy winds and storm surges.

As the islands began to experience moderately strong winds, residents shored up homes and businesses, and stocked up on essential supplies ahead of the passage of the storm near the twin-island state.

At 1800 GMT Earl was packing winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour, the US-based National Hurricane Center said.

Weather officials forecast more than five inches (13 centimeters) of rain from the storm, which is expected to pass northeast of Antigua, the mainland.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer advised inhabitants of low-lying areas to move to higher ground or into shelters, and urged the public to take all necessary precautions.

They appeared on Sunday to be following his advice: supermarkets and hardware stores reported brisk business as people rushed to get groceries, flashlights, batteries and other storm-related necessities.

Antigua's lone international airport was due to close later Sunday and the main airline, LIAT, canceled all flights.

Meanwhile, its sister island, Barbuda, was also putting storm preparations in place.

"People... are boarding up where possible. They are predicting it will pass about 30 miles north of Barbuda," said Fabian Jones, deputy chairman of the Barbuda Council, which runs to the day-to-day affairs on the island.

The eye of Earl was located 230 miles (370 kilometers) southeast of Barbuda, heading west-northwest at around 15 miles (24 kilometer) per hour.

"Strengthening is expected during the next 48 hours, and Earl is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday," the NHC said.

A hurricane warning was in effect for several eastern Caribbean islands, including Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis.

"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the NHC warned.

On the forecast track, the center of Earl will curve in a northwesterly direction, passing just north of Barbuda and reaching the Virgin Islands on Monday.

On the French half of the island Saint Martin, extra firefighters arrived from Guadeloupe to deal with any emergency, French Overseas Minister Marie-Luce Penchard said.

If need be, the commander of French armed forces in the Caribbean was ready to airlift military personnel as needed, she added, urging locals to closely follow instructions given by public broadcaster RFO and local radio stations.

The northern half of Saint Martin is French territory, with the remainder -- known as Sint Maarten -- belonging to the Netherlands. Saint Bathelemy lies to the southeast.

In the next days, Earl is forecast to skirt northeast of Puerto Rico, the island of Hispaniola -- comprised by Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- and Cuba, although the Caribbean islands are likely to be buffeted by heavy rains and strong winds from the storm.

Current forecast models have the storm reaching 600 miles (970 kilometers) east of the North Carolina on the eastern US coastline early Friday, but it is unclear if it will make landfall.

Meanwhile, the Category One hurricane Danielle, which never made landfall continued to weaken as it sailed towards the open waters of the north Atlantic.

At 1500 GMT Danielle -- considerably weakened from the Category Four status it had attained on Friday -- was packing winds of near 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour.

The storm was located in the Atlantic some 575 miles (925 kilometers) northeast of Bermuda heading in a northeasterly direction at about 26 miles (43 kilometers) per hour.

"Some weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours," and Danielle is expected to fizzle in about two days, the NHC said.

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