Sandy packs punch as a strong Category 2 hurricane, claims 2 lives
(CNN) — Hurricane Sandy churned over eastern Cuba early Thursday as a Category 2 storm with winds of 105 mph, slipping a bit in strength since making landfall, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Along the U.S. East Coast, residents were told to be wary headed into the weekend. Sandy claimed a pair of lives before reaching Cuba. A woman in western Haiti’s Camp-Perrin died Wednesday when she tried to cross a flooding river in the Ravine du Sud, according to Haitian news agency AHP. And CNN affiliate TV J reported a man in Jamaica was killed when he was hit by a boulder sent tumbling downhill by the storm’s rain.
The wind-whipped island is under a curfew through Thursday morning. Some 70% of its residents were without power and 1,000 people are in shelters, TV J reported.
Sandy has its sights set on the Bahamas once its done with Cuba. Hurricane warnings are in place for Jamaica and eastern Cuba, along with the central and western Bahamas. Haiti, the eastern Bahamas and southeastern Florida are all under tropical storm warnings.
Rainfall amounts could hit up to 12 inches across the region, except for the Bahamas where the forecast calls for 3 to 5 inches. Lesser amounts are expected in the Florida Keys. Sandy is proving to be a windfall for surfers used to tamer tides. Even hundreds of miles away, the storm is kicking up a powerful surf off Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Jason Russo, a visitor from Connecticut, couldn’t resist jumping in. “I went in the water, I did about three somersaults, strong rip current,” he told CNN affiliate WSVN.
Fort Lauderdale’s Ocean Rescue advised beachgoers to stay out of the ocean, but knows not everyone will heed the warning.
“The expert surfers will be out there so we just tell them to be careful and we’re there if they need our help,” Chief Breck Ballou said. “We’re there to go out and get them.”
The five-day forecast from the National Hurricane Center predicts the center of the storm will shadow the east coast of the United States in the coming days and could “potentially transition over the weekend into a powerful nor’easter.” Massachusetts Emergency Management says Sandy could make landfall somewhere between Maine and Virginia, bringing with it heavy rain, flooding, high winds and widespread power outages