Hurricane Ivan is the strongest on the five-tier Saffir-Simpson scale

Hurricane Ivan, with winds of 145 mph, forced evacuations in Jamaica as it moved on a track toward Cuba and Florida, where residents braced for the third powerful storm to hit the state in a month. The eastern part of Jamaica was already being battered by the storm's wind and rain, Sophia Mitchell, a spokeswoman at Jamaica's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, said. Officials are still trying to evacuate people to shelters, especially in coastal regions that will be affected by storm-surge flooding. ``Winds have ripped out banana and coconut trees and most of the agricultural sector has been severely impacted,'' she said in a telephone interview. ``We have shelters island-wide and the effort to evacuate is ongoing.'' Ivan's center was about 85 miles (140 kilometers) south- southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and moving west-northwest at about 12 mph (19 kph), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its 2 p.m. advisory. The storm is expected to reach the Florida Keys sometime Monday. Ivan is expected to make landfall on the island, which has 2.71 million residents, late today. It may strengthen enough to again become a Category 5 storm, the strongest on the five-tier Saffir-Simpson scale, informs Bloomberg. According to Reuters, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a non-sectarian international development and relief organization, is seeking donations to help the victims of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada and Jamaica. While the death toll caused by Ivan is low, the devastation to the poor country of Grenada is high. Approximately 90 percent of the small island’s houses and businesses have been damaged and thousands have been left homeless. With maximum sustained winds of 230 kilometers an hour, Hurricane Ivan began lashing the island of Jamaica Friday. Ivan, the strongest hurricane yet of the 2004 season, is already responsible for at least 25 deaths in the Caribbean. Ivan could strike Cuba on Sunday and then become the third hurricane in less than a month to hit Florida early next week. Ivan is the strongest hurricane to strike Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Authorities in Jamaica urged about 500,000 people living in coastal areas to move to shelters but they say few did, as most people decided to stay home to protect their dwellings. Authorities in the tourist center of Montego Bay ordered private guards into the streets to prevent looting. Ivan devastated the island of Grenada and there are fears it could do the same to Jamaica. Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told reporters Ivan's heavy rains and Jamaica's mountainous terrain could be a deadly combination, reports VOANews. "This will be a tremendous impact to Jamaica and Cuba, but especially in Jamaica where they have the high terrain. They could easily have 6 - 10 inches [30 centimeters] of rain and mudslides in some areas," said Max Mayfield. "This is always a concern down in the Caribbean."

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