Hurricane Ivan headed for western Cuba on Monday, after pummeling the Cayman Islands with floodwaters that swamped homes and fierce winds that ripped off roofs. The storm has strengthened to an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm.
The slow-moving hurricane, one of the strongest on record to hit the region, killed at least 65 people across the Caribbean before reaching the Caymans and threatens millions more in its projected path.
The Mexican tourist island of Cozumel shut down its airport, halted the arrival of cruise ships and prohibited all maritime navigation as it prepared Monday for heavy rains and winds from Hurricane Ivan.
"People woke this morning in Cancun to find the hurricane getting much closer than expected," reports CBS News Correspondent Adrienne Bard. The Yucatan Peninsula was put under full hurricane warning. People rushed out to buy gasoline, canned food and plenty of drinking water. The waves are expected to swell high enough to flood some areas.
Residents of the Florida Panhandle got serious about boarding up windows, stocking food and worrying as deadly Hurricane Ivan appeared to be heading in their direction
"You can see in their faces how tired they are, how stressed they are. That's been complicated by long lines for supplies like gasoline and plywood, and a lot nervousness about where this storm is headed," reported CBS News Correspondent Cami McCormick in Tallahassee. She saw one man drive off in a hurry from a Home Depot store with wood flying out of his trunk.
However, anxious Key West residents did not hesitate to head back home Sunday night, after learning that Ivan would cut them a boat, reports Tina Verona of CBS station WFOR-TV.
Parts of low-lying Grand Cayman, the largest island in the territory of 45,000 people, were swamped under up to 8 feet of water Monday and residents stood on rooftops of flooded homes. A car floated by the second story of one building, and a resident called Radio Cayman to report seeing two bodies floating off the beach. Police said they could not confirm the report.
Ivan intensified overnight, with winds nearing 160 mph, and headed for western Cuba, threatening floods in its western Pinar del Rio province, the center of tobacco growing and the biggest source for the country's famed cigar industry. About 1.3 million Cubans were evacuated from their homes, most taking refuge in the sturdier houses of relatives, co-workers or neighbors.
"The housing is flimsily constructed. People did not have proper materials to cover their windows and doors to protect themselves," reports CBS News Producer Portia Siegelbaum in Havana. "There aren't the supplies that people in Florida take for granted. There are no storm shutters, so people are struggling with what they have to protect their property as best they can."
Ivan — at Category 5, the highest level on the Saffir-Simpson scale and capable of catastrophic damage — was projected to pass near or over Cuba's western end by Monday afternoon or evening.
Although Cubans were relieved by reports that the hurricane would not make a direct hit, Havana's head meteorologist, Jose Rubiera, said Ivan was still threatening western parts of the island with strong winds and torrential rains. "No one should think that it is gone, that we are safe — that is not true," he said.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center might miss the tip of Cuba and could move near the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula in the next 24 hours.
Most Cubans weren't taking chances, though, said Siegelbaum.
"We saw two guys struggling to carry an ancient refrigerator up a hill to move it into a neighbor's house on higher group. As they said, they have not been able to replace all their appliances lost in the 2002 hurricane and they can't afford to lose this refrigerator," she said.
Ivan was expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, nearing parts of Florida's west coast still recovering from Hurricane Charley and threatening to make landfall in the Florida panhandle, Mississippi or Louisiana.
"Right now, we're looking anywhere from the Florida panhandle to Louisiana," Jennifer Pralgo, a meteorologist at the Hurricane Center, said. "We do feel that the southern portion of Florida will be in the clear on this."
Ivan has killed at least 15 people in Jamaica, 39 in Grenada, five in Venezuela, one in Tobago, one in Barbados and four children in the Dominican Republic.
"We'd barricaded ourselves with a dining room table and furniture from our living room and put a carpet over the top of us to protect us from glass shards as our roof got ripped off above us," St. George's University student Welles Henderson told CBS News' The Early Show about his ordeal on Grenada.
The eye of the storm passed just south of Grand Cayman, said Rafael Mojica, a Hurricane Center meteorologist.
Though Ivan's center didn't directly make landfall in the three-island chain, the storm lashed the wealthy British territory all day Sunday with 150 mph winds, and the rains kept coming through the night.
The last Category 5 storm to make landfall in the Caribbean was Hurricane David, which killed more than 1,000 people and devastated the Dominican Republic in 1979, Mojica said.
Only three Category 5 storms are known to have hit the United States. The last was Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in 1992, killing 43 people and causing more than $30 billion in damage.
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