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Stronger Hurricane Dennis heads to Jamaica

Dennis upgraded to Category 2 storm




Thursday, July 7, 2005; Posted: 9:55 a.m. EDT (13:55 GMT)



MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Dennis slowed and strengthened to a Category 2 storm Thursday as it lumbered through the Caribbean, forecasters said.


As of 8 a.m. ET, the hurricane's maximum sustained winds had increased to 105 mph (168 kph) with stronger gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center.


The storm was centered about 130 miles (209 kilometers) east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica and about 165 miles (265 kilometers) south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was moving toward the northwest at about 10 mph (16 kph).


Hurricanes are classified as categories 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. A Category 2 storm has winds of between 96-110 mph (154-177 kph).


A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the southwestern peninsula of Haiti and the eastern Cuban provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo. Hurricane conditions were expected in those areas within the next 24 hours, and forecasters warned people there to quickly complete preparations.


Other portions of central and eastern Cuba were under a hurricane watch.


Forecasters said the storm was expected to dump 4 inches to 8 inches of rain over southern Haiti, Jamaica, eastern Cuba and the Caymans, with isolated amounts of 12 inches possible in mountainous areas of Jamaica. The heavy rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, forecasters warned.


The hurricane center's latest five-day projection of Dennis' possible path has the center of the storm going across western Cuba Friday and then into the Gulf of Mexico.


On that path, the storm would start approaching the central Gulf Coast Sunday and make landfall near Mobile, Alabama, about midday Monday.


However, hurricane movements can be erratic, and the potential forecast track of the storm varies from southwest Florida to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Forecasters cautioned that the storm was still too far away for a truly accurate prediction of where it would go.


Officials at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said that while hurricane preparations were under way, they did not expect to have to move the roughly 520 terror suspects held at a detention facility there.


Forecasters said Dennis is likely to increase in intensity as it crosses the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, possibly developing into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of more than 115 mph (185 kph).

Cindy swamps South


Mobile is already swamped by rains from Tropical Storm Cindy, which came ashore late Tuesday near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana with sustained winds of 70 mph (112 kph).


After coming ashore, Cindy faded into a tropical depression as it moved northward, but the system continued to drop rain on the southern Appalachians.


The remnants of the storm pounded northern Georgia Wednesday night with strong winds and heavy rain.


South of Atlanta, storms cut a swath through the cities of Hampton, McDonough and Stockbridge, according to Sabrina Puckett with the Henry County Fire Department.


She said there are reports of power lines and trees down throughout the county.


Some of the heaviest damage was concentrated around Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Atlanta.


Authorities evacuated a nine-story condominium building near the track after parts of the roof were torn off and windows were blown out.


The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for more than 60 Georgia counties.


Cindy's move across the Gulf of Mexico forced the evacuation of 23 of 819 oil platforms and six of 135 oil rigs, according to the Minerals Management Service. Dennis' approach, as a stronger storm, could prompt more.


The shutdown has interrupted more than 3 percent of the Gulf's normal oil and natural gas production, pushing oil prices above $60 a barrel in trading Wednesday.


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