Tropical Storm Sandy will likely become a hurricane before it strikes land in Jamaica on Wednesday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Jamaicans are preparing for the storm, which may cause flash flooding and landslides.
Jamaicans stocked up on supplies and reinforced roofs on Tuesday ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to hit the Caribbean island of posh resorts and sprawling shantytowns as a hurricane with lashing rain and wind.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the strengthening storm was churning over warm Caribbean waters and should reach Jamaica on Wednesday, most likely as a Category 1 hurricane. The late-season storm is expected to travel from south to north over the island, which local meteorologists say hasn't sustained a direct hit from a hurricane's eye since powerful Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
Acting Prime Minister Peter Phillips said "all Jamaicans must take the threat of this storm seriously" and asked people to look out for their neighbors, especially children, the elderly and the disabled.
Hurricane conditions were possible in eastern Cuba by Wednesday night. The storm is forecast to pass near the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where pretrial hearings are being held for a suspect in the attack on the Navy destroyer the USS Cole. Authorities at the base had considered suspending this week's proceedings, but said that as of late Tuesday they planned to continue despite Sandy.
On Tuesday night, the outer bands of Sandy were drenching parts of Jamaica with steady rain that sent brown water rushing down streets and gullies. Tropical storm winds were expected to hit later in the night or early Wednesday.
Schools, government offices and Kingston's port shut down early and the country's international airports prepared to close Wednesday morning.
The Jamaican Constabulary Force called numerous curfews in neighborhoods across the island to prevent crime and protect properties.