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Emily strengthens, looks next to Yucatan Peninsula



Published: Sat, July 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Category 4 storm's winds spiked at 155 mph Saturday.

BULL BAY, Jamaica (AP) -- Fishermen dragged skiffs to shore and workers raced to board up buildings Saturday as Hurricane Emily swept along the southern coast of Jamaica, packing winds of nearly 155 mph and rain that could bring landslides and flooding.

The Category 4 storm was on track to pass close to Grand Cayman Island later Saturday or early today before smashing into the Yucatan Peninsula, where Mexican officials prepared to evacuate tourists, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico and possibly southern Texas soon.

Jamaican officials sent buses to evacuate hundreds of residents in flood-prone communities along the southern coast, but all refused to leave, said Nadene Newsome, spokeswoman for Jamaica's emergency management office.

Emily's winds spiked to 155 mph Saturday afternoon with higher gusts, making it a Category 4 storm that could still strengthen, according to the National Hurricane Center.

U.S. meteorologist Stacy Stewart said Friday that it was "very rare" to have such a strong hurricane in the Caribbean Sea so early in the season.

Hurricane force winds extended up to 60 miles and tropical storm force winds extended up to 150 miles. The hurricane center warned the storm could dump 5 to 8 inches of rain over Jamaica, which could produce flash floods and mudslides.

Mexican officials declared a hurricane warning and advised tourists to evacuate much of the country's Caribbean coast -- including the resorts of Cancun and Cozumel and Isla las Mujeres islands -- but stopped short of ordering the move.

Emily was centered about 130 miles southwest of the Jamaican capital and 235 miles southeast of Grand Cayman on Saturday afternoon. It was moving west-northwest near 18 mph.

If Emily remains on track, it's likely to strike land in the eastern Yucatan tonight, lose some strength as it moves overland, then regain its dangerous energy in warm waters over the Gulf of Mexico, said Jack Beven, the hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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