Hurricane Ivan taking aim at Cuba

Hurricane Ivan has battered the Cayman Islands with roaring winds and surging seas and taken aim at Cuba and the United States after cutting a deadly path through the Caribbean. A monster storm packing 150-mph winds, Ivan tore off roofs, produced waves the size of two-story buildings and submerged an airport runway as it roared past Grand Cayman -- the largest of the three islands that make up the wealthy British territory of 45,000 people. Panicked residents climbed on kitchen counters to escape floodwaters that overwhelmed their houses. Some said the winds sounded like a locomotive train. "They pretty much got the worst of it," said Michael Formosa, meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Centre, after the hurricane's eye passed close to Grand Cayman on Sunday. On one of the three islands, tiny Cayman Brac, some residents packed into caves for shelter. Ivan killed at least 16 people in Jamaica and caused heavy flooding and mudslides when it brushed past on Friday night and Saturday. But the island of 2.7 million people appeared to have been spared the total havoc wrought on Grenada last week, informs Reuters. According to USATODAY, Hurricane Ivan, with winds near 150 mph, moved toward western Cuba after ripping roofs from buildings and shutting down power in Grand Cayman. The path of the hurricane may cross the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. At least 11 people were killed in Jamaica, which avoided a direct hit from Ivan yesterday, the Associated Press reported. Ivan has been blamed for at least 56 deaths in the Caribbean, including 34 in Grenada. Heavy rain, ``possibly causing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,'' is expected along Ivan's path, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. New York time advisory. The hurricane's center is expected to pass near or over western Cuba tomorrow. ``This is a very dangerous situation for Cuba,'' said Hector Guerrero, a hurricane center meteorologist, in an interview. ``It's very powerful.'' Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands, lost power, the center said, citing the Cayman Meteorological Service. Water up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) deep covered the runaway at Grand Cayman's airport and waves as high as 5 feet flowed through many homes and buildings, the hurricane center said. Meteorologists say Ivan will likely hit western Cuba on Monday as it continues moving northwest through the Caribbean. Cuban officials have warned citizens to take shelter. Tuesday, Ivan is projected to enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where it may affect Florida. The southeastern U.S. state has suffered two direct hits by hurricanes in the past four weeks. A tropical storm watch has been issued for the Florida Keys. Ivan is blamed for at least 44 deaths so far, including 14 in Jamaica and 17 in Grenada, where the storm wrecked most of the island's homes, reports VOANews.

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