Hurricane Ike weakens after passing over central Cuba

09:55, 09 September 2008
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Ike`s winds fell to 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour

Hurricane Ike, which left 66 people dead in Haiti, moved back over water after crossing central Cuba and is forecast to make landfall again before heading into the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico and intensifying, according to Bloomberg.

Ike`s winds fell to 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour, making it a Category 1 storm, the lowest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, according to the latest advisory from the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was about 225 kilometers southeast of Havana at 11 p.m. Cuba time and moving west-northwest at 20 kph, the center said.

Ike declined from a Category 3 storm as it passed over Cuba, where authorities evacuated as many as 2 million people or nearly a fifth of the population, according to Agence France- Presse. Four people were killed, the news agency said.

The storm will ``rake the rest of Cuba with near hurricane force winds. It is going to be a pretty bad situation for them,`` Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist at, said today by phone from State College, Pennsylvania. ``It looks like it is going to be the worst hurricane they have had in Cuba for a while.``

CNN showed images of waves crashing over five-story buildings on the north coast as Ike swept ashore yesterday.

The Cuban government issued a hurricane warning for most of the country and a hurricane watch was in effect for the provinces of La Habana, Ciudad de Habana, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.

Another Landfall

On its current track, the storm will probably make another landfall over western Cuba tomorrow and then move into the southeastern Gulf. Texas Governor Rick Perry declared a state of disaster along the coast in preparation for Ike`s landfall.

Cuba may receive 51 centimeters (20 inches) of rain that could trigger flooding and mudslides, the hurricane center said.

Ike killed 66 people in Haiti, bringing the death toll in the impoverished nation to at least 600 in a month of storms, according to AFP.

As many as 600,000 people may need assistance in Haiti after Ike, Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna either hit the country or passed close by in the past month, United Nations humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said.

Ike, coming on the heels of Gustav last week, may keep U.S. oil and gas production in the Gulf closed until at least mid- September. The Gulf is home to more than a quarter of U.S. oil production and the National Hurricane Center`s five-day projection shows the system moving toward the central coast of Texas, west of installations battered by Gustav.

Evacuating Workers

``A lot of them are still shut in, and the concerns might be, do we want to start up operations and spend the money to ferry and fly crews back out only to pull them back in a couple of days,`` said Jim Rouiller, a meteorologist with Planalytics Inc. in Wayne, Pennsylvania. ``Production may be curtailed a bit this week.``

Energy producers reported that personnel from 10 rigs and 202 production platforms have been evacuated, the Minerals Management Service said yesterday on its Web site. There are about 717 manned production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crude oil for October delivery fell as much as $1.24, or 1.2 percent, to $105.10 a barrel and traded at $105.14 at 10:45 a.m. Singapore time on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has dropped 28 percent from its record $147.27 reached on July 11.

Strengthening Forecast

Ike may enter the Gulf as a ``stronger and more organized storm,`` Rouiller said by telephone.

``A Category 3 appears likely based on its projected track,`` Rouiller said. ``All lights are green for rapid strengthening once it gets into the Gulf.``

Urban search and rescue teams and supplies have been positioned in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida in anticipation of Ike`s landfall later this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

A tropical-storm warning continues for the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef south to the Dry Tortugas, the statement said. A watch was issued for southwestern Florida`s Gulf waters from East Cape Sable to Bonita Beach.

Keys residents who evacuated over the weekend should be able to return home by Sept. 13, or perhaps a day or two earlier, the statement said. Ike should have passed the region completely by Sept. 10.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency yesterday as Ike headed toward the Gulf. New Orleans residents who fled as Gustav approached last week were warned to prepare to evacuate again.

New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was spared the worst of Gustav, although 25 people were killed in Louisiana, according to the state`s chief medical officer, Louis Cataldie.

Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, also declared a state of emergency as a precautionary step, according to a statement today.


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