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UPDATE: Earl Lashes Caribbean with Heavy Rain, Powerful Winds

Source: MSNBC

Posted on 30 Aug 2010

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Hurricane Earl grew to a major Category 3 storm, lashing the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and 125 mph winds as it made a course that could threaten the eastern United States later this week.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Earl, which formed on Sunday, was likely to keep growing as it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Those areas were already seeing sporadic gusts and heavy rain early Monday.

"It is possible that Earl could become a Category 4 hurricane as we get into the middle to late portions of the week," hurricane center specialist Michael Brennan said. Category 4 storms have sustained winds of at least 131 mph.

The storm's forecast track would carry its center north of the Caribbean, then forecasters say it is likely to bend to the north, moving roughly parallel to the U.S. East Coast.

Cruise lines diverted ships to other ports in the Caribbean and Mexico as a customary precaution for tropical weather. Antigua's airport closed, and regional airlines LIAT and Winair suspended flights.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Anguilla and the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques.

In Antigua, powerful wind and rain destroyed at least one home and at least eight people had to be evacuated, though there were no reports of critical injuries. Local weather authorities reported at least 5 inches of rain and 10-foot waves.

Residents on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten — its two halves respectively administered by France and the Netherlands — said Earl brought rain, wind and pounding seas on the coast, causing power outages and knocking down trees. There were also some reports of homes losing their roofs.

"The rain has picked up, the seas are extremely rough," said Roddy Heyliger of the St. Maarten Government Information Service early Monday.