Hurricane Ivan devastates Grenada |

Hurricane Ivan devastates Grenada

Associated Press Writer
Hurricane Ivan is shown in this NOAA satellite image taken at 9:15 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2004. (AP Photo/NOAA)

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Hurricane Ivan made a direct hit on Grenada with ferocious winds, causing “incalculable damage” and killing at least three people as it turned concrete homes into rubble and hurled hundreds of the island’s landmark red zinc roofs through the air, officials said Wednesday.

The most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in 14 years reportedly devastated Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, and also damaged homes in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Thousands were without water, electricity and telephone service just days after Hurricane Frances rampaged through.

Ivan strengthened even as it was over Grenada on Tuesday, becoming a Category 4 storm. It got even stronger as it headed across the Caribbean Sea, passing north of the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

It is threatening to cross right over Jamaica by Friday morning or Saturday, and then Cuba, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

“After Jamaica, it’s probably going to hit somewhere in the U.S., unfortunately,” said meteorologist Jennifer Pralgo of the Hurricane Center. “We’re hoping it’s not Florida again, but it’s taking a fairly similar track to Charley at the moment.”

Hurricane Charley killed 27 people in southwest Florida last month and caused an estimated $6.8 billion in insured damage.

Ivan terrorized Grenada for about two hours, said Hugh Cobb of the Hurricane Center.

“They took a really bad beating,” he said, adding this grim warning: “Whoever gets this, it’s going to be bad.”

Ivan’s sustained winds were clocked at 120 mph as it raced through the Windward Islands. But it strengthened to 140 mph with gusts just over 160 mph.

Cobb said Ivan would be the first Category 4 storm to hit Caribbean islands since Hurricane Luis in 1990.

He said that if Ivan hit Jamaica, it could be more destructive than Hurricane Gilbert, which was only a Category 3 storm when it devastated the island in 1988.

Howling winds raged through the hilly streets of St. George’s, Grenada’s capital, trashing concrete homes, uprooting trees and utility poles, and knocking out telephone service and electricity. The islands were cut off and transmission was halted from the Grenada Broadcast Network.

ChevronTexaco said it evacuated nonessential staff from a natural gas well off Venezuela’s Atlantic coast.

Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said his home had been flattened, Trinidadian leader Patrick Manning said after a telephone conversation Tuesday night.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency based in Barbados said there were three deaths in Grenada, but it had no details since losing contact with Grenadian emergency officials Tuesday night.

It said St. George’s “suffered incalculable damage” and Grenada’s emergency disaster office, at the 19th century Great House at Mount Wheldale, was destroyed. Grenada’s airport also was damaged and an air charter company in Barbados said it was refused permission to fly in.

The Barbados agency said it was sending a relief team to Grenada and expected help from the British naval patrol boat HMS Richmond, which was deployed in the Caribbean.

St. George’s main hospital also was damaged, the agency said, as were some shelters. “The population in public shelters is 1,000 and climbing,” the agency said.

No news could be had from other islands in Grenada, which has about 100,000 residents and is best known for a 1983 U.S. invasion after American officials determined the airport was going to become a joint Cuban-Soviet base. Cuba insisted it was helping build the airport for civilian use only. Nineteen Americans died in the fighting.

Two private boats near Grenada have sent out distress signals, according to the U.S. Coast Guard in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It had no details.

There were unconfirmed reports that storm damage allowed prisoners to escape Grenada’s crumbling and overcrowded 17th century prison, a zinc-roofed stone edifice on a hilltop. The prison has held former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and 16 others convicted of killings in the 1983 coup.

Cobb said Ivan’s heaviest rains likely will sweep the southern peninsula of Haiti, where deforestation and shacks make any excessive downpours deadly. Heavy rains in May triggered floods that killed 1,700 people and left 1,600 missing and presumed dead in Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic.

Haiti posted a hurricane watch for its southwest peninsula Wednesday.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Ivan was centered about 145 miles east-northeast of Bonaire and was moving toward the west-northwest at nearly 16 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 70 miles and tropical storm-force winds another 160 miles. The storm raised battering waves that the Hurricane Center warned could cause storm flooding of 3-5 feet and above normal tides with 5-7 inches of rain that could cause flash floods and mudslides.

Earlier Tuesday, Ivan damaged 221 homes in Barbados and left many residents without water and electricity, the Caribbean disaster agency said. It had reports of one death in Barbados, but could not confirm it was hurricane-related. Power was being restored Wednesday.

In neighboring St. Vincent and the Grenadines, more than 1,000 people were in shelters, 19 homes were destroyed by storm surges in coastal areas, and another 40 homes were damaged, the agency reported. It said the country remained without electricity Wednesday.

A half-dozen houses in St. Lucia and two schools in Tobago lost their roofs.

Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao were under a hurricane warning, a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remained posted for Colombia’s Guajira peninsula and Venezuela’s northern coast, and a tropical storm watch covered the southwest coast of the Dominican Republic.

Ivan became the fourth major hurricane of the season Sunday, coming hard on the heels of Hurricane Frances, which killed two people in the Bahamas and 14 in Florida and Georgia.

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