Hurricane Dean hits Caribbean, killing eight

Young boys use an umbrella to resist the wind while walking at a street of Kingston during the pass of Hurricane Dean over Jamaica on Sunday. Hurricane Dean pummeled the country with strong winds and torrential rains THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, ADRES LEIGHTON

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Young boys use an umbrella to resist the wind while walking at a street of Kingston during the pass of Hurricane Dean over Jamaica on Sunday. Hurricane Dean pummeled the country with strong winds and torrential rains THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, ADRES LEIGHTON

By Howard Campbell

By HOWARD CAMPBELL

The Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hurricane Dean pummeled Jamaica with gusting winds and torrential rains Sunday after the prime minister made a last-minute plea for residents to abandon their homes and head for shelter. Many residents ignored the call, however, while tourists holed up in resorts with hurricane-proof walls.

The storm, which had already killed eight people on its destructive march across the Caribbean, triggered evacuation calls from the Cayman Islands to Texas, and forced the Space Shuttle to cut short its mission. Cruise ships changed course to avoid Dean, but some tourists in Jamaica could not get away before the island closed its airports late Saturday.

Hurricane-force winds began lashing Jamaica on Sunday afternoon, said meteorologist Rebecca Waddington at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters said Jamaica would take a near-direct hit with Dean’s eye passing just to the south.

The government set up more than 1,000 shelters in converted schools, churches and the indoor national sports arena. Authorities urged people to take cover from the storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and was expected to dump up to 20 inches of rain on the island.

But only 47 shelters were occupied as the storm began hitting, said Cecil Bailey of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

“For the last time, I’m asking you to leave or you will be in danger,” Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller urged residents earlier as the storm loomed offshore.

As of 5 p.m. Sunday, Dean was located 50 miles south of Kingston and was traveling west at 20 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

George Lee, mayor of the Portmore community near the capital Kingston, said appeals to evacuate had gone unheeded. Some islanders said they were afraid for their belongings if they moved to shelters.

“Too much crime in Kingston. I’m not leaving my home,” Paul Lyn said in Port Royal, east of Kingston.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Linval Bailey said police were sent to commercial districts to prevent looting and curfews were imposed until Monday evening. Authorities also cut power on the island to prevent damage to the electrical infrastructure.

Many tourists who did not get flights out took shelter at resorts that has buildings capable of withstanding a powerful storm.

Trinice Tyler, a postal worker from Lake Elsinore, Calif., said she would weather the storm there “on my knees praying.”

“I’m celebrating my 40th birthday today, and it’s going to be a birthday to remember,” she said. “I have mixed emotions. It’s exciting, but I’m nervous. Am I going to make it home?”

The hurricane created massive waves and surges high as 20 feet as it passed the Dominican Republic on Saturday, flooding roads and drowning a boy. At least two people were killed and about 150 homes were destroyed in Haiti, officials said.