Jamaica faced heavy rain with thunderstorm on Wednesday as the country prepared itself for Hurricane Sandy - the 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. The police ordered 48-hour curfew in the major towns to avoid any mishaps by keeping people off the streets.
Expected to strike the country’s most heavily populated city, Hurricane Sandy will likely follow a trail that would carry it across the Caribbean island to Cuba and possibly hit Florida.
As soon as the late-season rainfall pounded Jamaica, the island's international airports were shut down for the day and cruise ships altered their schedules. Moreover, the country’s police ordered 48-hour curfews to keep people safe in the bad weather and deter looting. Police patrol cars with their lights flashing drove through soaked communities in the capital of Kingston to assess the situation.
After landfall in the vicinity of Kingston Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Sandy is forecast to spin on into eastern Cuba overnight. Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said southeast Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay would also face the storm by Friday morning.
The center added that a storm watch may be required for parts of east-central Florida later Wednesday morning.
Jamaica is a poverty-stricken county with roughly 2.7 million inhabitants. It has large sections with poor infrastructure and due to a lack of building codes, some homes have been built close to steep embankments and ditches. Although it was hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 along with other powerful storms centered offshore, the island hasn’t witnessed the eye of a hurricane since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, according to Jamaican meteorologist Jacqueline Spence.
Meanwhile, the rich and the poor in Jamaica were equally worried about the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Wednesday morning, Kingston resident Andre Howt tried to repair a neighbor's leaking roof ahead of the hurricane’s advent.
Howt, who lives in the poor Kingston community of Standpipe, said, "We don't have much time. We heard on the radio that the hurricane was coming this way. We'll be getting wet."
In Kintyre, a hilly community situated on the outskirts of the capital of Kingston, Sharon Gayle and her neighbors fretted over the probable loss of the town's bridge over the Hope River.
The mother-of-three said, "We've gotten cut off here a whole heap of times. But with a big nasty hurricane on the way, I'm really nervous. We're trying not to show it in front of the children though.”
Late Wednesday morning, Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane moving north-northeast at 13mph. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and was centered 65 miles south of Kingston.