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August 20, 2007
Dean Grazes Jamaica: Barrels Toward Mexico
Residents of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are breathing a little easier today as Hurricane Dean sideswiped Jamaica and mostly missed the Caymans on its way into the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane Dean spared the Cayman Islands the worst of its fury on Monday as it headed for a collision course with Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, sending tourists fleeing for the airports and locals searching for higher ground. According to weather blogger Brendan Loy, Dean's eyewall never made land, passing more than 20 miles off the coast of Jamaica. Loy points out that this is not good news because the eye, which is where the storm's fiercest winds and rain is located, didn't have a chance to weaken thus setting up a frightening scenario of the storm intensifying to a category 5 with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour prior to slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula.
Dean was already a powerful Category 4 storm as it raked the Cayman Islands. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it could grow into a monstrous Category 5 hurricane before slashing across the Yucatan Peninsula and emerging in the Gulf of Campeche, dotted with oil rigs.
Dean was several days from Texas and its path still uncertain, but the state is already saturated after an unusually rainy summer and officials were taking no changes — emergency operations centers opened, prison inmates were moved inland, and sandbags distributed.
Once over the Yucatan, Dean's path becomes very difficult to predict. Almost certainly, Texas will be hit by some of the outer rain bands of the storm - bad news for already waterlogged Texans. And there is always the chance that once in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the storm will reorganize itself and once again become a major threat to life and property.
The Atlantic storm season may have started late. But it is certainly trying to make up for lost time.