Cristobal strengthens into hurricane as storm moves away from Bahamas
This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, at 10:45 a.m. EDT shows showers and thunderstorms affecting portions of the central Gulf Coast as a frontal boundary was sinking into the region. (AP / Weather Underground)
David McFadden, The Associated Press
Published Monday, August 25, 2014 9:33PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 26, 2014 6:54AM EDT
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Cristobal moved away from the Bahamas after strengthening into a hurricane, leaving a swath of soaked Caribbean islands and at least five fatalities in its wake.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said that by late Monday evening the hurricane was centred about 1,055 kilometres southwest of Bermuda. It had maximum sustained winds of 120 kph and was tracking north-northeast at 4 kph.
The storm was projected to gradually take an even more northeastward track, and pass to the west and north of Bermuda on Wednesday. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 75 kilometres from the centre, and tropical force winds extended outward up to 335 kilometres.
Before strengthening into a hurricane, Cristobal flooded several communities across the Caribbean and halted flights in the drenched Turks & Caicos Islands. Government offices and banks were shuttered Monday on the low-lying islands that are highly vulnerable to flooding from heavy rains and storm surge, and authorities said many homes were flooded.
Officials in Turks & Caicos said some 30 centimetres of rain had been dumped since Friday.
In the Bahamas, government meteorologists warned that severe thunderstorms from the storm's outer bands posed threats Monday to Mayaguana, Acklins and a few other islands and they called for boaters to return to port and residents to stay indoors.
The hurricane service said Cristobal was expected to produce additional rainfall amounts of 7.6 to 15.2 centimetres over Turks & Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas, with isolated amounts of around 25 centimetres possible. The storm was projected to produce rainfall of 5 to 10 centimetres over Bermuda.
On the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, two Dominican men and two Haitians died when they were caught up in waterways swollen by Cristobal's driving rains.
In Haiti, Marie Alta Jean Baptiste, Haiti's director of civil protection, confirmed the deaths of the two Haitians late Monday. They had gone missing late Saturday in Saint Marc, a port town on the country's west coast.
On Monday, the Turks & Caicos governor's office reported one storm fatality in the tiny archipelago, saying a body was recovered from floodwaters on the main island of Providenciales.
About 3,600 people were evacuated from communities in the Dominican Republic, according to Jose Manuel Mendez, director of the country's emergency operations centre. More than half returned to their homes by Monday.
Roughly 640 Haitian families were left temporarily homeless during the passage of the storm, said Luckecy Mathieu, a civil protection co-ordinator. At least 28 homes were badly damaged and four others were destroyed, he said.
Meanwhile in the Pacific, Hurricane Marie was moving northwest after weakening to a Category 3 storm, bringing high waves but no threat of a direct hit to Mexico's Pacific coast.
The weakening hurricane's sustained winds had decreased to near 185 kph with more weakening expected over the next two days. It was centred about 815 kilometres southwest of the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula and moving northwest at 20 kph.
Swells generated by Marie were affecting the southwestern coast of Mexico and the southern gulf of California. National Hurricane Center forecasters said the swells were expected to reach southern California by Tuesday and were likely to cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions."