Tropical Storm Jeanne threatens Puerto Rico, Hurricane Javier pounds Mexico
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AFP) - Tropical Storm Jeanne crashed ashore in densely populated Puerto Rico, killing two people, dumping heavy rains and flooding low-lying areas, authorities and local media said, as Hurricane Ivan raged toward the US coast.
Emergency Service chief Jose Villegas told local media a woman was killed as she fled her home. The strong storm ripped the zinc roof off the home and the woman, 47, was hit by the falling sheet of metal, he said. Meanwhile an elderly man was killed in Vega Baja as he fell off his home's roof while trying to install storm shutters, the newspaper El Nuevo Dia reported. Power was shut off on the entire island of more than four million to protect residents from potential electrocution by downed lines, Governor Sila Maria Calderon said. "A hurricane warning remains in effect for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands...And the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabrera southward to Isla Saona," the US National Hurricane center in Miami said.
At 1800 GMT, the center of the storm was about 25 miles (40 km) south-southwest of San Juan with a track moving it west-northwest near 8 mph (13 km/hr). "The forecast motion should bring the center through central and western Puerto Rico this afternoon and evening then into the Atlantic and near the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday," the center said. "Some slow strengthening is possible once Jeanne moves into the Atlantic...And it could become a hurricane later tonight or Thursday."
Calderon closed schools and told public-sector workers to stay home until the emergency passed. Airline flights were grounded as the Luis Munoz International Airport was closed. Rivers swelled to flood stage. Fallen trees blocked major roads, blocking access of rescue workers. "We should prepare with the same calmness and responsibility as we have on past occasions," Calderon said in a televised press briefing in this Caribbean US commonwealth.
Because the storm was expected to be slow in passing the island, National Weather Service (news - web sites) officials said rain could drench the island for about 24 hours. At least 700 people had taken refuge at shelters officials said.
"We cannot let our guard down because there is still an emergency," Calderon said.
Meanwhile, western Mexico was pounded by heavy rain and strong winds from the outer reaches of Hurricane Javier, a powerful Category Four system, as the storm hurtling north across the Pacific Ocean.
At 1400 GMT, Javier was some 375 kilometers south-southwest of Manzanillo, a port town in the state of Jalisco, moving at seven kilometers (four miles) per hour with winds of 230 kph (143 mph) and gusts of 285 kph (177 mph), Mexico's Meteorological Service (SMN) said. "The hurricane is causing rain in Jalisco and the states of Colima and Nayarit, but, in its current course, it is not expected to reach land in the next hours," SMN meteorologist Sonia Castellon said.
Authorities have urged residents in Pacific states to follow news on the storm's path, since hurricanes are "always unpredictable," Castellon said.
In the east, meanwhile, Hurricane Ivan, which was headed toward the southern United States through the Gulf of Mexico, was "slowly" moving away from Mexico, the SMN said.
So basically we are being sandwiched by hurricanes, Ivan, Jeanne, and Javier.
Meanwhile.. this is what is going on in the Carolinas where I am at.
A flood watch has been issued across the Charlotte area and the western Carolinas, with forecasters warning of potentially devastating flooding in coming days from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.
As the hurricane, with sustained winds of 135 mph, prepares to make landfall later tonight near Mobile, Ala., meteorologists in the Carolinas are warning area residents of inland dangers from the storm.
?This could be bad, really bad,? said Neil Dixon, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C.
Potentially catastrophic damage is feared along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Forecasters say Ivan?s hurricane-force winds will stretch more than 100 miles inland, causing damage in places such as Montgomery and Birmingham in Alabama ? and possibly even in Atlanta.
At mid-afternoon Wednesday, a buoy about 75 miles off the Florida coast reported 50-foot waves in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions are expected to be bad in the Carolinas, too.
Forecasters say 15 inches or more of rain could fall from Thursday through Saturday in the mountains, already hard-hit by severe flooding a week ago from the remnants of Hurricane Frances. (Yea we had a taste of the high waters)
Rainfall amounts will be heavy elsewhere, too ? 8 to 12 inches in the foothills, 6 to 8 inches in the western Piedmont, and 3 to 6 inches east of Interstate-85.
The mountains also will have to deal with high winds.
A high wind watch has been posted for Thursday and early Friday, with sustained winds of 40 mph or stronger predicted. Combined with wet ground and trees weakened by last week?s stormy weather, the winds could cause widespread power outages in the mountains.
Strong winds of a different sort ? from tornadoes ? are possible in the Piedmont and foothills.
?As the bands of showers and heavy storms begin rotating into the Piedmont later Thursday, I expect that we?ll see tornadoes develop,? said Steve Burrus, also of the weather service?s office in Greer.
Burrus said it is too early to determine if the tornado outbreak will equal that of Hurricane Frances, which spun off more than 40 twisters across the Carolinas.
?We?ll have a better idea of that on Thursday,? he said. ?But the predicted wind shear is spectacular. It certainly makes me believe we?ll see tornadoes.?
Some light showers are likely overnight and early Thursday, but the heavier bands of rain will arrive late Thursday morning or in the afternoon. They are predicted to continue through Friday and possibly into Saturday. The remnants of Ivan are forecast to stall over southeast Tennessee, spreading repeated waves of heavy rain into the western Carolinas.
?We?ll see wave after wave of these heavy rain shields,? Burrus said.
Across the Carolinas, officials are preparing for the storm.
Law enforcement officials say they are doing everything possible to react to any flooding. Duke Power officials have warned residents along the lakes managed by the utility company that high water is a strong possibility in coming days.
In Oconee County, in the mountainous northwest corner of South Carolina, more than 30 roads were closed during flooding last week. Emergency Management Director Henry Gordon said he and his staff is trying to cope not only with damage from Frances, but also to prepare for Ivan.
?We?re trying to do our normal jobs, plus assess the damage we already have, plus get ready for the next one,? Gordon said.
?All you can do is hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,? he added.
For some mountain residents, Hurricane Ivan is not an important issue.
?The damage is already done,? said Ronald Bryant, from the mountain town of Clyde. His home was submerged in more than 4 feet of water last week from Frances-caused flooding. ?If it comes through, I won?t be here.?
Officials at Duke Power Company are warning that levels on Mountain Island Lake and Lake Norman, where flooding occured last week, could be even higher with Hurricane Ivan.
?If Hurricane Ivan impacts the local river basins, the river flow downstream and impact on lakes will occur faster, due to saturated ground and full streams,? Duke Power?s Joni Davis said. ?It is likely that levels at Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake will be very high, based on this current prediction ? likely, even higher than what we experienced after Frances.?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency already has declared 15 western North Carolina counties a disaster area, because of flooding from the remnants of Frances.
At the peak of flooding, more than 250 roads were closed. Landslides damaged highways, and wastewater treatment plants spilled millions of gallons of untreated water. Dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed.
Tuesday, state prison inmates packed gray sand into plastic bags while officials in Canton and Clyde, about 20 miles west of Asheville, prepared evacuation plans for Hurricane Ivan.
Along the Gulf Coast, a hurricane warning is in effect from Grand Isle, La., eastward to Apalachicola, Fla. New Orleans is in the hurricane warning area, and mass evacuations have been taking place in the Crescent City. But forecasters increasingly think the storm?s fury will be spent a bit farther to the east ? especially hitting Mobile and the Florida panhandle.
Stragglers streamed toward higher ground Wednesday in southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Many highways were turned into one-way evacuation routes, and pounding surf already was causing erosion on beaches.
?This is a bad one, and people need to get out,? said Mike Dow, mayor of Mobile.
Deputies went door to door during the nigh in southern Mobile County, advising residents to evacuate. Sheriff?s Sgt. Steve Kirchharr said, ?We have received a good response.?
Interstate-65 in Alabama was turned into a north-only evacuation route this morning from Mobile to Montgomery. About 2 million people have been urged to leave coastal areas, including about 1.2 million in the New Orleans area.
Before noon Wednesday, 12-foot waves were pounding at Gulf Shores, Ala., starting to cause beach erosion.
?This is the first time I?ve seen waves this big, and we?ve been coming here for years,? said Terry Kilpatrick, a north Alabama resident who was boarding up the windows on his beachfront condominium.
And there?s the other hurricane threat ? off to the southeast.
Tropical Storm Jeanne is moving across Puerto Rico on Wednesday evening, and a hurricane warning is in effect for the island.
The storm?s top sustained winds currently are 70 mph.
The National Hurricane Center predicts Jeanne will maintain minimal hurricane strength for a day, possibly drop back to tropical storm status later Thursday, but then re-intensify into a hurricane later Friday or Saturday.
By early Monday, Jeanne is forecast to be an 80 mph hurricane near the Bahamas, moving northwest and making a possible run toward Georgia or the Carolinas.