Thursday, September 16, 2004

First fatal victim of Hurricane Jeanne


The body of Margarita Rivera, 49, lies on her neighbor's roof after the strong winds of the Tropical Storm Jeanne tore off her roof with her hammock attatched to the celling while she and her husband were sleeping in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2004. Her husband survived. (AP Photo/ Herminio Rodriguez)


The roof and hamoc of Margarita Rivera, first fatal victim of the strong winds of the Tropical Storm Jeanne, lays in the street of a urban community in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on Wednesday September, 15, 2004. Jeanne tore off Rivera's roof with her hammock attatched to the celling while she and her husband were sleeping. Her husband survived. (AP Photo/ Herminio Rodriguez)

Hurricane Jeanne slamming the Dominican Republic


Tropical Storm Jeanne became a hurricane on September 16, 2004, raising the threat to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and hundreds of islands in the northern Caribbean. Jeanne's sustained winds grew to 80 mph as it walloped Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that is home to about 4 million people, and the Dominican Republic. This satellite image shows Jeanne (bottom right) and Hurricane Ivan (top left) (NOAA via Reuters)

Jeanne's sustained winds grew to 80 mph as it walloped Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that is home to about 4 million people, and the Dominican Republic.

Residents on the north coast of Haiti, the poor nation of 8 million that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, were warned to expect tropical storm conditions. Haiti has been largely deforested and is vulnerable to deadly flash floods and mudslides.

The southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, a British colony, were also under storm alerts.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was over the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic at latitude 18.7 north and longitude 68.4 west, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

It was moving due west at about 9 mph and was expected to turn slightly, toward the west-northwest, in the next 24 hours, forecasters said.

Forecasters said the Dominican Republic, where nearly 9 million people live, could expect up to 13 inches of rain that could trigger floods and mudslides.

The soggy system, which struck Puerto Rico as a tropical storm, dumped more than a foot of rain on the island and sent many rivers to flood levels.

Jeanne was the 10th tropical storm of the busy Atlantic hurricane season and became the sixth to turn into a hurricane. The average season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has about 10 tropical storms.

Jeanne became a hurricane as Ivan pounded the U.S. Gulf Coast after slamming ashore in Alabama with winds of 130 mph. Ivan has killed at least 70 people.

Major Flooding in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Jeanne


Two men try to ride their bikes on a flooded street in the Catano municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2004. Tropical Storm Jeanne slammed into Puerto Rico flooding neighborhoods, knocking out power and stranding thousands of tourists in the U.S. territory where hundreds fled low-lying areas. At least two people were killed. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)


A rescuer jumps on top of a car under water in Canovanas a Municipality at the northeastern part of Puerto Rico flooded by the path of Tropical Storm Jeanne, September 15, 2004. Jeanne hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday en route to the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Wednesday in its latest forecast. Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Jeanne spread over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday as the storm strengthened and threatened a host of Caribbean islands. REUTERS/Ana Martinez


Rescuers (R) wade through waters to help a family trapped in flood waters from Tropical Storm Jeanne in the sector of San Isidro in the Municipality of Canovanas, at the northeastern part of the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico, September 15, 2004


Omayra Reyes, 23, and her daughter Omayra Lee Martinez, 5, cross a flooded street in front of their house as Tropical Storm Jeanne hits Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2004. Tropical Storm Jeanne slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday, flooding neighborhoods, knocking out power and stranding thousands of tourists in the U.S. territory where hundreds fled low-lying areas. At least two people were killed. (AP Photo/ Herminio Rodriguez)

Jeanne becomes Hurricane


This satellite image gathered at 7:53 a.m. EDT Thursday Sept. 16, 2004 shows Hurricane Jeanne hugging the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, moving west near 9 mph, with a gradual turn toward the west-northwest expected in the next 24 hours. Jeanne strengthened from a tropical storm into the sixth hurricane of the season and struck the evacuated eastern tip of the Dominican Republic on Thursday. (AP Photo/NOAA)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Jeanne strengthened from a tropical storm into the sixth hurricane of the season and struck the evacuated eastern tip of the Dominican Republic on Thursday, a day after lashing Puerto Rico with damaging winds and rain that knocked out power, flooded roads and killed two people.

A hurricane warning was posted for the eastern and northern coasts of the Dominican Republic, as forecasters told the storm-weary Caribbean to monitor the progress of Jeanne, which had 80 mph winds with higher gusts.

The storm could potentially reach Florida, Georgia and South Carolina by the beginning of next week, according to the National Hurricane Center (news - web sites) in Miami.

"It is over land as we speak ... right on Cabo Engano," said meteorologist Mike Tichacek of the hurricane center.

The small fishing and farming village was evacuated Wednesday by Dominican authorities who said hundreds of people fled homes on the north coast and outlying island of Saona.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Jeanne was hugging the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, moving west near 9 mph, with a gradual turn toward the west-northwest expected in the next 24 hours.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.

But even as a tropical storm, Jeanne was powerful enough to cause havoc in Puerto Rico, buffeting the island of 4 million with wind gusts near 80 mph.

About 3,600 Puerto Ricans were evacuated to shelters, 38 roads were blocked, most residents were without electricity and some 600,000 were without running water, Gov. Sila Calderon said.

"A sudden storm hit us in an unexpected way and with a strength much greater than we had expected," she said at a news conference Thursday. "It left a wake of destruction that we now have to face."

Government offices would remain closed a second day, she said, urging people who did not need to go to work to stay home to aid clean-up efforts on debris-strewn roads.

Police rescued one couple from a car stuck in rising floodwaters on a main highway in north-coast Rio Grande before the vehicle was swept away, authorities said.

"They got out through the window," emergency official Hector Rosa said.

Others were not so fortunate.

Lashing winds tore the roof from Margarita Rivera's house, flung her from a hammock and smashed her into the wall of a neighbor's house, said Mayor Angel Garcia of Yabucoa, the southeastern town where the storm's eye hit land. Rivera, who died, was 49.

In north-coast Vega Baja, 78-year-old Arturo Roman Crespo died instantly after falling from a roof where he was putting up storm shutters, police said. They also reported a man injured in the central town of Lares when a downed tree hit his car.


Agriculture officials said plantain, banana and coffee crops probably sustained major damage.

The storm plowed northwest across the middle of the island and exited near Vega Baja, said meteorologist Scott Stripling of the U.S. National Weather Service

Jeanne dumped up to 16 inches of rain on Puerto Rico that could continue through Friday because the storm's tail extended far past St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, said Rafael Mojica, a hurricane center meteorologist.

About 50,000 people lost power in St. Croix, but half were back by evening, officials said. Airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands remained closed.

Jeanne was expected to skirt the northeast coast of the Hispaniola island, where floods in May killed more than 3,000 in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Jeanne was then forecast to pass the 700-island Bahamas chain, recently battered by Hurricane Frances, the Hurricane Center said.

In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, airports were closed and businesses shuttered. Wednesday night, people mobbed a Ben and Jerry's ice cream parlor that was giving away ice cream that otherwise would spoil in the blacked-out Puerto Rican capital.

Jeanne became the 10th named storm of a busy Atlantic season Tuesday. Three major hurricanes have been through in two weeks — Charley, Frances and the deadliest of them all, Ivan, which killed 68 people in the Caribbean.

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Associated Press reporters Frank Griffiths, Ian James, Paisley Dodds and Manuel Ernesto Rivera in Puerto Rico and Mat Probasco in the U.S. Virgin Islands contributed to this report.