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HURRICANES FELIX AND HENRIETTE


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Bianca
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« on: September 03, 2007, 04:23:41 pm »


AP - Mon Sep 3, 2:23 AM ET This NOAA satellite image taken Monday, Sept. 3, 2007 at 12:00 a.m. EDT shows Hurricane Felix churning through the Caribbean Sea. Felix is an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane and could hit Honduras or the Yucatan Peninsula in the next few days. (AP PHOTO/WEATHER UNDERGROUND)






                                                        Tourists flee as Felix nears





By ESTEBAN FELIX, Associated Press Writer
30 minutes ago
 
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - Planes shuttled hundreds of tourists from the island resorts of Honduras and Belize in a desperate airlift Monday as Hurricane Felix's pounding rain and punishing winds bore down on the Central American coast.
 
The powerful, Category 4 storm spurred Grupo Taca Airlines to provide special free flights to the mainland. Planes were quickly touching down and taking off again to scoop up more tourists. Some 1,000 people were evacuated from the Honduran island of Roatan, popular for its pristine reefs and diving resorts. Another 1,000 were removed from low-lying coastal areas and smaller islands.

Felix's top winds weakened slightly to 145 mph as it headed west, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned that it could easily strengthen into catastrophic storm again before landfall. It was projected to rake the Honduran coast and slam into southern Belize on Wednesday before cutting across northern Guatemala and southern Mexico.

Felix seemed likely to make landfall on the Miskito Coast, a remote, swampy jungle along the Honduras-Nicaragua border where Honduran officials were trying to find enough gas to evacuate Miskito Indians, who speak a mix of Spanish and a local creole, and usually get around in canoes.

"There's nowhere to go here," said teacher Sodeida Rodriguez, 26, who said residents in wooden shacks were seeking shelter but those with concrete homes were staying put.

Provincial health official Efrain Burgos said 18,000 people were in danger on the Miskito coast, and urged them to find their own way to higher ground.

"We're asking the people who are on the coasts to find a way to safer areas, because we don't have the capability to transport so many people," he said.

The storm was following the same path as 1998's Hurricane Mitch, a sluggish storm that stalled for a week over Central America, killing nearly 11,000 people and leaving more than 8,000 missing, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua. But Felix was moving at 21 mph, much faster than Mitch.

By Monday afternoon, crashing waves reached 15 feet higher than normal on Honduras' coast, but there was no rain yet.

"We are ready to face an eventual tragedy," said Roatan fire chief Douglas Fajardo.

Most tourists took the free flights out, but locals prepared to ride out the storm.

"We know it's a tremendous hurricane that's coming," said real estate worker Estella Marazzito.

The hurricane center said Felix could dump up to 12 inches of rain in some areas, possibly bringing flash floods and mudslides. As far away as Tegucigalpa, more than 100 miles inland, authorities cleared vendors from markets prone to flooding.

Across the border in Belize City, skies grew increasingly cloudy and winds kicked up as residents boarded windows and lined up for gas. Tourists competed for the last seats on flights to Atlanta and Miami.

"I just wish they had more airplanes to take care of everyone who has to leave," said Atlanta, Georgia, resident Mitzi Carr, 48, who cut short her weeklong vacation on Hatchet Caye.

Belize is still cleaning up from last month's Hurricane Dean, which killed 28 people as plowed through the Caribbean and slammed into Mexico as a Category 5 storm. Dean damaged crops everywhere it passed, including an estimated $100 million in Belize alone.

Over the weekend, Felix toppled trees, flooded homes and forced tourists indoors on the Dutch islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, but caused little damage. It then grew to a Category 5 storm Monday before losing a bit of its punch.

This is only the fourth Atlantic hurricane season since 1886 with more than one Category 5 hurricane, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Only 31 such storms have been recorded in the Atlantic, including eight in the last five seasons.

If Felix regains Category 5 winds before striking land, it would be the first time in recorded history that two such killer storms have made landfall in the same season, hurricane specialist Jamie Rhome said in Miami.

At 2 p.m. EDT, Felix remained a fearsome hurricane, though it had a very small wind field, with hurricane-force winds extending just 30 miles from its center. It was centered 305 miles east of the Nicaragua-Honduras border.

Off Mexico's Pacific coast, meanwhile, Tropical Storm Henriette was nearing hurricane strength on a path to hit the resort-studded tip of the Baja California Peninsula on Tuesday.

With maximum sustained winds near 70 mph, Henriette caused flooding and landslides that killed six people in Acapulco. Three died when a boulder fell on their home, and three when a landslide hit their house.

At 2 p.m. EDT), Henriette was centered 225 miles south-southeast of the tip of the peninsula, pushing waves up to 22 feet high as it moved northwest at 12 mph.

Meterologist Rebecca Waddington warned that both hurricanes could shift course. "Even if the forecast is perfect, that's only forecasting where the center of the storm is going to go," she said. "So everyone in the area needs to be aware of it."

___

Associated Press Writers John Pain in Miami and Olga Rodriguez in Belize City contributed to this report.
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2007, 04:35:43 pm »








                                        Honduras, Nicaragua brace for Hurricane Felix fury






by Noe Leiva

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) - Honduras and Nicaragua braced for the worst and ordered thousands of evacuations as Hurricane Felix barreled toward Central America on Monday with winds topping 230 kilometers (145 miles) per hour.
 
Authorities in the two countries, as well as aid organizations, readied for a potential disaster as the approaching storm rekindled memories of the devastation wrought in 1998 by Mitch, one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes in history.

Thousands of people along the Caribbean coast of Honduras and Nicaragua were ordered to head to safer ground, and residents in other areas were told to pack emergency supplies in case of flooding or mudslides.

Several hundred tourists were also evacuated aboard boats and planes from the Honduran islands of Roatan and Guanaja, which are popular with scuba divers.

Marco Burgos, who heads the emergency management agency Copeco, warned Honduras needed to brace for the worst.

"The option is for people to find a place where they may be protected, there is no longer any other option: you have to protect your lives and those of your families," said Obed Escalon, a forecaster with the Honduran weather service.

Felix looked set to slam ashore near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border on Tuesday morning.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he was cutting short a visit to Panama, to lead emergency efforts. He ordered the release of funds to finance the operations.

UN officials as well as non-governmental organizations also stood ready to assist in recovery efforts.

"This hurricane has the potential to cause major devastation to Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala," said Allen Clinton, a spokesman for the CARE humanitarian assistance group.

Carlos Scaramella, the World Food Program representative in San Salvador, said the UN agency had sufficient food stocks to feed 100,000 people for the first five days of an emergency.

Forecasters expected the hurricane to travel inland fairly close to the Honduran shoreline, emerge in the Bay of Honduras, make landfall in Belize on Wednesday morning and continue inland to Guatemala.

This could spell disaster for the central American region where Hurricane Mitch left more than 9,000 people dead and as many missing in 1998.

Many of the areas threatened by the storm's fury are impoverished and highly vulnerable to floods and mudslides.

At 1800 GMT, the center of Felix was located 490 kilometers (305 miles) east of Nicaragua's border with Honduras.

The storm dropped to category four, one notch from the topmost category five intensity, but NHC forecasters said at 1800 GMT it remained extremely dangerous and could regain its punch before it slams ashore.

Felix had strengthened from category two to five in a record 15 hours on Sunday.

Over the weekend, the hurricane damaged homes and downed power lines in Grenada, and lashed Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao with heavy winds, though there were no immediate reports of casualties.

It also caused the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to cut short one of its regular data-collection flights over the hurricane, the Miami Herald reported.

The modified Orion P-3 aircraft was caught in a rapid updraft-downdraft cycle that subjected the crew to four times the force of gravity.

Meanwhile, Mexico braced for a hit on its Pacific coast as Tropical Storm Henriette looked set to strengthen into a hurricane as it barreled toward the Baja California peninsula, which is dotted with tourist resorts.

The storm had already been blamed for seven deaths as rains that drenched the Mexican shoreline caused several mudslides.

Last month, Mexico was already battered by Hurricane Dean, this year's first, which had also reached intensity five during its deadly rampage.

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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2007, 08:08:22 am »





   
Felix was the first of two major storms expected to make landfall on Tuesday: Off Mexico's Pacific coast, Hurricane Henriette churned toward the upscale resort of Cabo San Lucas, popular with Hollywood stars and sea fishing enthusiasts.

On the Nicaraguan coast, 2,000 people were evacuated before the hurricane blew roofs off homes





                                                 Category 5 Hurricane Felix slams ashore




By IOAN GRILLO, Associated Press Writer

 LA CEIBA, Honduras - Hurricane Felix roared ashore early Tuesday as a fearsome Category 5 storm � the first time in recorded history that two top-scale storms have made landfall in the same season. The storm hit near the swampy Nicaragua-Honduras border, home to thousands of stranded Miskito Indians dependent on canoes to make their way to safety.
   
Felix was the first of two major storms expected to make landfall on Tuesday: Off Mexico's Pacific coast, Hurricane Henriette churned toward the upscale resort of Cabo San Lucas, popular with Hollywood stars and sea fishing enthusiasts.

On the Nicaraguan coast, 2,000 people were evacuated before the hurricane blew roofs off homes, blocked roads and knocked out telephone service, said Nicaragua's Civil Defense chief, Rogelio Flores.

But many other Miskito Indians refused to leave low-lying areas and head to shelters set up in schools. The newspaper La Prensa reported that 20 fishermen were missing.

Communication to the area was largely cut off, making it difficult to find out what was happening as the storm's winds began hitting the remote, swampy area, much of it reachable only by canoe. The Nicaraguan government sent in some soldiers before the storm hit, but was preparing to send in more help once the hurricane passed.

In the seaside resort of La Ceiba, residents spent the night reinforcing the flimsy walls of their homes with plywood and sandbags.

"It's going to be strong, but we have faith that Christ will protect us," said Sandra Hernandez, a 37-year-old housewife who watched satellite images of the storm on television.

Hurricane Dean came ashore just last month as a Category 5 storm, and Felix's landfall marked the first time that two Category 5 hurricanes have hit land in a season since 1886, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Only 31 such storms have been recorded in the Atlantic, including eight in the last five seasons.

"This is an extremely dangerous and potentially catastrophic hurricane. We just hope everybody has taken the precautions necessary to protect life and property," Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said Tuesday.

Indians along the isolated Miskito Coast live in wooden shacks, get around on canoes and subsist on fish, beans, rice, cassava and plantains. The only path to safety is up rivers and across lakes that are too shallow for regular boats, but many lack gasoline for long journeys. Provincial health official Efrain Burgos estimated that 18,000 people must find their own way to higher ground.

Off Mexico's Pacific coast, Henriette strengthened into a hurricane and was on a path to hit the tip of the Baja California Peninsula on Tuesday afternoon. The storm had sustained winds of 75 mph and, at 8 a.m. EDT, was centered about 80 miles south-southeast of the peninsula.

Before dawn Tuesday, strong waves pounded the resort's beaches, rain fell in sheets and strong winds whipped palm trees. More than 100 residents spent the night in makeshift shelters as the storm approached, and more were expected to leave their homes Tuesday.

On Monday, police in Cabo San Lucas said one woman drowned in high surf stirred up by Henriette. Over the weekend, the storm caused flooding and landslides that killed six people in Acapulco.

On Tuesday, in the final hours before Hurricane Felix was expected to hit, Grupo Taca Airlines frantically airlifted tourists from the Honduran island of Roatan, popular for its pristine reefs and diving resorts, while the U.S. Southern Command said in a statement that a Chinook helicopter evacuated 19 U.S. citizens, including tourists and members of U.S. Joint Task Force-Bravo who were visiting the island.



Felix was projected to rake central Honduras, slam into Guatemala and then cut across southern Mexico, well south of Texas.

The storm was following the same path as 1998's Hurricane Mitch, a sluggish storm that stalled for a week over Central America, killing nearly 11,000 people and leaving more than 8,000 missing, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Felix could dump up to 12 inches of rain in isolated parts of northern Honduras and northeastern Nicaragua, possibly bringing flash floods and mudslides. In the highland capital of Tegucigalpa, more than 100 miles inland, authorities cleared vendors from markets prone to flooding.

Meteorologists agree that it is impossible to determine if any single hurricane is the result of climate change. But they differ on the key question of whether global warming is making hurricanes stronger.

Some scientists say that more intense hurricanes are forming because of human-caused increases of sea surface temperatures. Others say that newer technology such as satellites and other devices allow better storm strength measurements, and that accounts for the increase in detecting more powerful hurricanes.

___

Associated Press writers Paul Kiernan in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Olga Rodriguez in Belize City; Diego Mendez in San Salvador, El Salvador; Freddy Cuevas in Tegicugalpa, Honduras; and John Pain in Miami contributed.
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2007, 12:00:43 pm »






                                           Felix slams ashore as Category 5 storm




By IOAN GRILLO, Associated Press Writer

 LA CEIBA, Honduras - Hurricane Felix slammed into Nicaragua's Miskito Coast as a record-setting Category 5 storm Tuesday, whipping metal rooftops through the air like razors and forcing thousands to flee. Hurricane Henriette made for a direct hit on the Cabos resorts of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.
 
Twin Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes making landfall on the same day is unprecedented, according to National Hurricane Center records dating back to 1949. The closest comparison happened at 5 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1992, when Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida 23 hours after Hurricane Lester hit Baja California, Mexico.

"The winds are horrible," Red Cross official Claudio Vanegas said by phone from the Nicaraguan town of Puerto Cabezas shortly after Felix struck land nearby with 160 mph winds. "They send roofs flying through the air, so we aren't going outside because it is too dangerous."

Felix landed around dawn, destroying many homes. "There are some that are nothing more than a few remaing walls," he said.

Only two weeks earlier, Hurricane Dean struck Mexico further up the Caribbean coast. Never before in recorded hurricane history have two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes made landfall in the same year. Only 31 Category 5 storms have been seen in the Atlantic since record-keeping began in 1886, including eight in the last five seasons.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Henriette's top winds increased to 85 mph as it bore down on Baja resorts popular with Hollywood stars and sports fishermen. Few tourists or residents had expected a direct hit, but they woke to dangerous winds and a closed airport. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the center would likely hit the tip of the peninsula Tuesday afternoon.

Already, 15-foot waves sent plumes of whitewater 30 feet into the air at the main Cabo San Lucas marina, and waves hit the walls of beachfront hotels. One restaurant owner said he lost 40 percent of his beach before the storm even hit. Catamarans crashed against their moorings, rain fell in sheets and palm trees bent in the wind.

A deep-sea fishing trip was out of the question for Cynthia White, a 64-year-old retiree from Fort Myers, Fla., who spent hours before the storm watching waves break against the resort's famous rock arch.

"We're Florida tourists, so we know what it's about," White said. "It didn't ruin the vacation, but it ain't helping the case."

Henriette claimed seven lives even before it strengthened into a hurricane. One woman drowned in high surf in Cabo San Lucas on Monday, and the storm caused flooding and landslides that killed six people in Acapulco.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Henriette was centered 60 miles south-southeast of the Baja California peninsula, on a path to drench Mexico's northern deserts and then the U.S. southwest on Thursday night.

And as Felix roared inland, its winds weakened to 120 mph and it was about 40 miles west of Puerto Cabezas by 11 a.m. EDT. It was moving at 15 mph, on a path to drench central Honduras and Guatemala before passing as a weakened tropical storm over Mexico's Tehuantepec Peninsula.

"The major concern now shifts to the threat of torrential rains over the mountains of Central America. Isolated maximum totals of 25 inches are possible. Persons living in flood-prone areas should take all precautions to protect life and property," said senior hurricane specialist Richard Pasch at the Hurricane Center in Miami.

In Nicaragua's remote northeast corner, more than 12,000 people were evacuated just ahead of Felix's landfall, including from a local hospital, but some refused to leave vulnerable coastal communities, and distress calls were received from three boats with a total of 49 people on board, civil defense official Rogelio Flores said.

In neighboring Honduras, about 5,000 residents and 3,000 tourists were evacuated from offshore islands just before Felix hit. Grupo Taca Airlines airlifted tourists from Roatan, popular for its pristine reefs and diving resorts, and a U.S. Chinook helicopter evacuated 19 Americans who were visiting the island, according to the U.S. Southern Command.

"I only got seven dives in. I hope they didn't jump the gun too soon," said Bob Shearer, 54, of Butler, Pa., who was disappointed his family's scuba-diving trip was cut short.

Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises changed itineraries for a total of six cruises to avoid ports in the area.

Phones and power were out in much of the Miskito Coast, making it difficult to find out what was happening in the remote, swampy area where many people get around on canoes. Radio reports said a Catholic church in Puerto Cabezas was destroyed by winds.

Rogelio Perez, a local emergency official, said the army was preparing to fly over the area and assess damage. However, emergency officials said they had no immediate reports of victims, and that most people in low-lying areas had been moved to shelters on higher ground.

"Some refused to leave their homes, but most are safe," Vanegas said.

The only path to safety for many of those Indians was up rivers and across lakes that are too shallow for regular boats, and the damaging winds and floods could wipe out their small crops of beans, rice, cassava and plantains.

Felix was following a similar path to 1998's Hurricane Mitch, a sluggish storm that stalled for a week over Central America, killing nearly 11,000 people and leaving more than 8,000 missing, mostly in Honduras and Nicaragua.

In the highland capital of Tegucigalpa, more than 100 miles inland, authorities cleared vendors from markets prone to flooding.

In Honduras' seaside resort of La Ceiba, residents spent the night reinforcing flimsy house walls with plywood and sandbags.

"It's going to be strong, but we have faith that Christ will protect us," said 37-year-old housewife Sandra Hernandez, watching satellite images of the storm on television.

___

Associated Press writers Paul Kiernan in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Diego Mendez in San Salvador, El Salvador; and Freddy Cuevas en Tegicugalpa, Honduras, contributed to this report.
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2007, 04:41:31 pm »








                                          Twin storms pack dangerous winds




By PAUL KIERNAN,
Associated Press Writer
 
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - Felix walloped Central America's remote Miskito coastline and Henriette slammed into resorts on the tip of Baja California as a record-setting hurricane season got even wilder Tuesday with twin storms making landfall on the same day.
 
Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes making landfall on the same day is unprecedented, according to National Hurricane Center records dating back to 1949.

Felix roared ashore before dawn as a Category 5 storm along Nicaragua's remote northeast corner an isolated, swampy jungle where people get around mainly by canoe. The 160 mph winds peeled roofs off shelters and a police station, knocked down electric poles and stripped humble homes to a few walls.

"The metal roofs are coming off like straight razors and flying against the trees and homes," Lumberto Campbell, a local official in Puerto Cabezas, near Felix's landfall, told Radio Ya shortly before his phone line went dead.

Emergency official Samuel Perez said most of the port's buildings were damaged and the dock was destroyed, although there were no reports of deaths.

By late afternoon, Felix had weakened to a Category 1 storm with winds of 75 mph. But forecasters were still worried that the tempest would do great damage inland over Honduras and Guatemala, threatening mudslides. Up to 25 inches of rain was expected to drench the mountain capitals of Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City, where shantytowns cling precariously to hillsides.

Towns across Honduras were flooding, and residents waded through waist-deep, garbage-strewn water in La Ceiba, on the northern coast.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch parked over the same region for days, causing deadly flooding and mudslides that killed nearly 11,000 people and left more than 8,000 missing.

"The major concern now shifts to the threat of torrential rains over the mountains of Central America," said senior hurricane specialist Richard Pasch at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

In the Pacific, Henriette's top winds increased to 85 mph and it made landfall just after 2 p.m. on the southern tip of Baja, a resort area popular with Hollywood stars and sports fishermen. Few tourists or residents had expected much trouble, but they awoke Tuesday to dangerous winds, closed airports and forecasts of a direct hit.

"I've been hearing it from the wife, coming to Cabo during the hurricane season," said Derek Dunlap, a 45-year-old engineer from San Francisco. "I was going to roll the dice, and well, here we go."

Henriette was on a path to drench Mexico's northern deserts, and its remnants are forecast to drop drop an inch or two of rain on Arizona and New Mexico in the Southwest on Thursday night.

The Mexican government declared a state of emergency in southern Baja California.

Felix was the 31st Category 5 hurricane seen in the Atlantic since record-keeping began in 1886 and the eighth in the last five seasons. Some meteorologists say human-caused increases in sea surface temperatures are making storms stronger, while others say the numbers are up because new technology allows us to measure their intensity better.

In Guatemala, presidential elections were still scheduled for Sunday, but authorities prepared supplies and equipment for heavy rains and flooding from Felix. In Honduras, schools were closed and 11,000 soldiers went on alert as Tegucigalpa residents emptied supermarket shelves and waited in long lines for gas.

"I've been standing in lines for two days at different places to buy food and home supplies," said housewife Cristina Segura.

In the Nicaraguan mining town of Bonanza, 1,000 refugees crowded into 16 shelters. Mayor Maximo Sevilla said most roads were washed out or blocked by debris.

"We are cut off and being beaten by Hurricane Felix," Sevilla told The Associated Press by phone, pleading for help from emergency officials.

As soon as Felix moved inland, the Nicaraguan army sent in a planeload of soldiers, life jackets and building materials, joining 700 troops patrolling against looting and clearing debris.

Tuesday was historic for two reasons: It was the first time on record that two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes made landfall in the same year, with Felix coming two weeks after Hurricane Dean slammed into southern Mexico.

And Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes have never made landfall the same day, according to records dating back to 1949. The closest comparison happened at 5 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1992, when Andrew devastated southern Florida 23 hours after Lester hit Baja California, Mexico, the Hurricane Center said.

Henriette's leading edge brought driving rain and 15-foot waves that sent plumes of whitewater 30 feet high at the main Cabo San Lucas marina. Waves also washed away sand and licked at the walls of beachfront hotels. Catamarans crashed against their moorings and palm trees bent in the wind.

Cynthia White, a 64-year-old retiree from Fort Myers, Fla., watched waves nearly cover the resort's famous rock arch after her deep-sea fishing trip was canceled.

"We're Florida tourists, so we know what it's about," White said. "It didn't ruin the vacation, but it ain't helping the case."

Henriette claimed seven lives even before it strengthened into a hurricane. One woman drowned in high surf in Cabo San Lucas on Monday, and the storm caused flooding and landslides that killed six people in Acapulco over the weekend.

Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruises changed itineraries for six cruises to avoid ports in the area.

What are expected to be the remnants of Hurricane Henriette could drop from 1 to 2 inches of rain over southern Arizona and New Mexico on Thursday, forecasters said.

___

Associated Press writers Freddy Cuevas in Tegicugalpa, Honduras; Filadelfo Aleman in Managua, Nicaragua; Traci Carl in Mexico City; Jennifer Kay in Miami; and Arthur H. Rotstein in Tucson, Ariz., contributed to this report.
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2007, 09:43:12 pm »








 Twin storms pack dangerous winds By PAUL KIERNAN, Associated Press Writer
6 minutes ago
 


CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico - Felix walloped Central America's remote Miskito coastline and Henriette slammed into resorts on the tip of Baja California as a record-setting hurricane season got even wilder Tuesday with twin storms making landfall on the same day.
 
Felix caused at least three deaths and damaged thousands of homes in Nicaragua. It's rains posed a danger to inland villages lying in flood-prone mountain valleys and to urban shantytowns susceptible to mudslides.

The monstrous storm roared ashore before dawn as a Category 5 tempest along Nicaragua's remote northeast corner an isolated, swampy jungle where people get around mainly by canoe.

Winds of 160 mph slammed the city of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, peeling roofs off shelters and a police station, knocking down electric poles and destroying or damaging some 5,000 homes, according to Lt. Col. Samuel Perez, Nicaragua's deputy head of civil defense.

"The metal roofs are coming off like straight razors and flying against the trees and homes," said local official Lumberto Campbell.

Perez said at least three people died: a man drowned when his boat capsized, a woman was killed when a tree fell on her house and a baby died when the storm prevented medical attention.

Nicaragua's government declared the northern Caribbean region a disaster area and warned that torrential rain brought by Felix could cause rivers to jump their banks.

Felix weakened steadily throughout the day and was downgraded to a tropical storm, with winds of 60 mph, shortly after nightfall. Still, forecasters worried about damage inland over Honduras and Guatemala. Up to 25 inches of rain was expected to drench the mountain capitals of Tegucigalpa and Guatemala City, where shantytowns cling precariously to hillsides.

"The major concern now shifts to the threat of torrential rains over the mountains of Central America," said senior hurricane specialist Richard Pasch at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch parked over the same region for days, causing deadly flooding and mudslides that killed nearly 11,000 people and left more than 8,000 missing.

The Honduran government was draining water from behind dams in an attempt to reduce the flooding danger, and 10,000 people were being evacuated from high-risk areas of the capital, mostly from poor neighborhoods and street markets that ring the city.

"If they don't do it voluntarily, we will force them," Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Alvarez said. "We have 500 soldiers and 200 police for just that purpose."

President Manuel Zelaya said Honduras would remain on maximum alert until it was sure Felix had dissipated.

At 8 p.m. EDT, Felix's center was 135 miles west of Puerto Cabezas, moving westward at 13 mph, the U.S. Hurricane Center said. It was expected to move over Honduras Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

In the Pacific, Henriette's top winds increased to 85 mph as it made landfall just after 2 p.m. on the southern tip of Baja, a resort area popular with Hollywood stars and sports fishermen.

Few tourists or residents had expected much trouble, but they awoke Tuesday to dangerous winds, closed airports and forecasts of a direct hit.

"I've been hearing it from the wife, coming to Cabo during the hurricane season," said Derek Dunlap, a 45-year-old engineer from San Francisco. "I was going to roll the dice, and well, here we go."

Fifteen-foot waves chewed away beaches, crashed against seawalls at beachfront hotels and bashed catamarans against their moorings.

At 8 p.m. EDT, Henriette's sustained winds dropped to 75 mph as it moved 40 miles inland, on a path to drench Mexico's northern deserts and then drop an inch or two of rain on Arizona and New Mexico Thursday night. The Mexican government declared a state of emergency in southern Baja California. The storm claimed seven lives even before it strengthened into a hurricane.

Felix was the 31st Category 5 hurricane seen in the Atlantic since record-keeping began in 1886 and the eighth in the last five seasons. Some meteorologists say human-caused increases in sea surface temperatures are making storms stronger, while others say the numbers are up because new technology allows us to measure their intensity better.

"Today hurricanes are becoming increasingly violent. For example, water from the Carribean, the ocean, is two degrees hotter than before," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Tuesday, siding with those who blame climate-change. "This makes steam rise off the ocean more quickly: Hurricanes form faster and are more violent."

Dr. Chris Landsea, science operations officer at the National Hurricane Center, agreed that global warming is a factor but a very small one.

"All of the studies suggest that by the end of this century, hurricanes may become stronger by five percent because of global warming. So a 100-miles-per-hour hurricane would be 105 miles per hour," he said. "Most of what we're seeing is natural fluctuations."

Tuesday was historic for two reasons: It was the first time on record that two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes made landfall in the same year, with Felix coming two weeks after Hurricane Dean slammed into southern Mexico.

And Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes had never made landfall on the same date, according to records that began in 1949. However, at 5 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida 23 hours after Lester hit Mexico's Baja California, the Hurricane Center said.

In Guatemala, authorities prepared supplies and equipment for heavy rains and flooding from Felix. In Honduras, schools were closed and 11,000 soldiers went on alert as Tegucigalpa residents emptied supermarket shelves and waited in long lines for gas. In the Nicaraguan mining town of Bonanza, 1,000 refugees crowded into 16 shelters. Mayor Maximo Sevilla said most roads were washed out or blocked by debris.

"We are cut off and being beaten by Hurricane Felix," Sevilla told The Associated Press by phone, pleading for help from emergency officials.

As soon as Felix moved inland, the Nicaraguan army sent in a planeload of soldiers, life jackets and building materials, joining 700 troops patrolling against looting and clearing debris.

___

Associated Press writers Freddy Cuevas in Tegicugalpa, Honduras; Filadelfo Aleman in Managua, Nicaragua; Traci Carl in Mexico City; Jennifer Kay in Miami; and Arthur H. Rotstein in Tucson, Ariz., contributed to this report.
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