Aruba braces for Hurricane Felix

Residents on Aruba stocked up on groceries, flashlights and plywood to board up windows and doors ahead of Hurricane Felix, which was forecast to pass just north of the Dutch Caribbean island on Sunday morning.

Authorities issued a hurricane watch and a tropical-storm warning for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao on Saturday evening.

Earlier in the day, Felix brought heavy rains and strong winds to Grenada as a tropical storm, snapping small boats loose from their moorings, temporarily knocking out local radio and TV stations and toppling utility lines. No injuries were reported.

In Aruba, about 30km off the coast of Venezuela, a line of jittery residents and hotel employees snaked through a hardware store in the capital of Oranjestad to purchase supplies. “This kind of weather doesn’t usually make it to Aruba, so people are definitely worried,” said store cashier Mark Werleman.

The airport was reported busy but calm as tourists got on flights.

At 6am GMT, Felix was centred roughly 230km east of Aruba, according to the United States National Hurricane Centre in Miami.
It was upgraded early on Sunday to a category-two storm with maximum sustained winds of 160km/h, the centre said.

Felix, the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to continue strengthening over the next 24 hours and was moving west at about 30km/h. Forecasters said satellite images showed Felix steadily expanding in size.

“We are forecasting it [Felix] to be a category-three hurricane in the north-western Caribbean Sea by the middle of the week,” said forecaster Eric Blake of the hurricane centre.

A tropical-storm watch was also issued by the government of Jamaica, which was battered by Hurricane Dean on August 19.

Felix was on track to pass near Honduran resort islands on Tuesday and plow into Belize on Wednesday.

On Honduras’s Roatan Island, home to luxury resorts and pristine reefs, the weather was normal and guests were simply enjoying their vacations, said Mayan Princess Beach Resort and Spa employee Arturo Rich. “We aren’t evacuating people yet, but maybe on Monday” as the storm gets closer, he said.

‘Very scary’

The storm ripped roofs off at least two homes and destroyed a popular concert venue in the southern Caribbean island of Grenada. Orchards were left in ruin.

Jess Charles (29) said he and his family hunkered down in their house in the town of Calliste as the storm’s winds howled outside. “It was really very, very scary,” he said. “The wind was blowing so hard we thought our roof might come off.”

Felix also spawned thunderstorms and downed trees in Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Those islands reported only minor damage.

Rebecca Waddington, a meteorologist at the hurricane centre, advised employees of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor Felix’s progress and said the storm could reach the area in four to five days.

Along the Pacific coast of Mexico, meanwhile, authorities discontinued storm warnings as Tropical Storm Henriette moved out to sea.

Henriette dumped heavy rain on western Mexico earlier, loosening a giant boulder that smashed into a home in Acapulco, killing an adult and two children and injuring two other people.

A teenager and her two brothers were also killed when a landslide slammed into their house in a poor neighbourhood of the resort city.

With maximum sustained winds of 110km/h, the storm was expected to become a hurricane on Sunday. But forecasters put it on a path that would not threaten land until Thursday, when it could hit a remote section of the Baja California peninsula.—Sapa-AP, Reuters

Associated Press writer Linda Straker contributed to this report from St George’s, Grenada

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