Update 10.30am: Sandy is officially a hurricane. As of 10am local time, maximum sustained winds
within the huge weather system were clocked at 80 miles per hour,
turning Sandy into a weak Category 1 hurricane just prior to landfall in
Jamaica.The weather system also took a turn once again to the north-northeast, dragging it a bit further away from Cayman.
Update 8am Wednesday: Tropical Storm Sandy strengthened and sped up overnight, reaching near hurricane strength by 7am local time and likely reaching Jamaica sooner than expected. Landfall in Jamaica was expected sometime during the day Wednesday, possibly as a Category 1 hurricane. At 7am local time, the storm was sustaining 70 mile-per-hour maximum winds and was moving due north at 14 miles per hour.
An intensifying Tropical Storm Sandy was heading directly for the southern coast of Jamaica on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to make landfall on that island sometime Wednesday.
Although all three of the Cayman Islands appear safe from a direct impact from Sandy, the storm is still expected to bring windy and rainy weather and rough seas.
Winds are expected to increase to 23 to 29 miles per hour from the north to northeast on Wednesday and then shift at the same speed to the north to northwest on Thursday. Winds are forecast to subside to 17 to 23 miles per hour Friday and Saturday, but still come from the north to northwest.
Although these conditions will be generated from Sandy and not from one of the seasonal cold fronts that normally cause nor’westers, Cayman Islands National Weather Service Meteorologist Kerry Powery said this weather event would mimic a very strong nor’wester.
“It will be really, really strong in comparison to a nor’wester,” he said, adding that marine interests and property owners along Grand Cayman’s west coast need to prepare accordingly.
The National Weather Service’s forecast calls for rough to very rough seas all the way through Saturday. Wave heights are expected to peak on Thursday at six to nine feet.
A marine warning will be in effect Wednesday and Thursday and then give way to a small craft advisory on Friday and Saturday.
“A marine warning is a step above an advisory,” said Mr. Powery. “It advises all boat operators to seek safe harbour until the sea conditions improve.”
Mr. Powery said the wind direction and sea conditions would would prevent cruise ships and cargo ships from docking in George Town until conditions improve.
Grand Cayman will also receive some rain from Sandy, mostly on Wednesday and Thursday. Mr. Powery said that although he expects rather steady rainfall on Thursday, the rainfall models on Tuesday morning were only indicating an inch to an inch and half of rain.
Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba
Sandy’s outer bands started bringing heavy rain showers to Jamaica on Tuesday morning, when a hurricane warning came into effect for the country.
The tropical storm is expected by the National Hurricane Center in Miami to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall along Jamaica’s south coast sometime Wednesday afternoon.
Tropical storm conditions are expected to impact Jamaica as early as Tuesday night or Wednesday morning and to also reach Haiti by Wednesday. Eastern Cuba is expected to feel tropical storm conditions - and possibly hurricane conditions - by Wednesday night.
Rainfall is expected to be significant and possibly reach double-digits in terms of inches in Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Eastern Cuba, with as much as 20 inches of rain in isolated areas of mountainous terrain, according to the National Hurricane Center. These rains may produce life-threatening mud slides.
Jamaica’s south coast is also forecast to see battering waves and dangerous storm surge as much as one to three feet above normal.
Because of Sandy’s expected impacts, Cayman Airways cancelled its flights between Grand Cayman and Jamaica on Wednesday and added a stop in Montego Bay in addition to Kingston both to and from Grand Cayman on Thursday.
The airline also waived change fees for flights between Grand Cayman and Jamaica for scheduled travel between Wednesday and Friday.
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