Ivan Leaves At Least 56 Dead

A Jamaican man walks as electrical poles are seen collapsed after the passing of Hurricane Ivan, in the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica on Sunday. AP

A week ago this morning, we were saying a soggy goodbye to Hurricane Frances, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan. She had come ashore early in the morning - and stayed for 37 hours.

Now residents in Florida fear another unwelcome visitor. Ivan is in the neighborhood - and so far he makes Frances look like a baby.

Hurricane Ivan skirted Grand Cayman on Sunday, uprooting trees, bursting the banks of canals and flooding some homes with its winds near 155 mph.

The hurricane had grown to a rare top-Category 5 storm with 165 mph winds Saturday but it lost some strength Sunday as it approached the wealthy and well-built Cayman Islands, which appeared likely to escape its brunt.

Ivan is capable of causing tremendous damage and could strengthen. Millions more people are in its path - a projected direct hit on Cuba before it moves into the Gulf of Mexico or hits South Florida.

Officials in the Florida Keys say they are "cautiously optimistic" Hurricane Ivan might spare the island chain its worst punishment.

Still, the National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch Sunday morning for the lower third of the 120-mile island chain, from below Marathon through Key West and the Dry Tortugas. The watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Mandatory evacuation orders for tourists and 79,000 residents were in effect for the Keys.

The storm initially was projected to hit the Florida Keys directly, but it unexpectedly wobbled and lurched west early Saturday, saving Jamaica from a direct hit and bringing hope to weary Floridians who already have suffered through two other hurricanes in less than a month.

"From a psychological standpoint, it feels better, but from a meteorological standpoint we're not out of the woods yet," said Matt Strahan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Key West.

Billy Wagner, senior director of Monroe County Emergency Management, said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the forecasts, but officials said they had no plans to ease protective measures.

At 11 a.m., Ivan was centered about 30 miles southwest of Grand Cayman and was moving west-northwest at 9 mph. It was expected to move over that island Sunday afternoon.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said late Saturday that Ivan had the sixth lowest central pressure ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic basis — an important measure of the storm's strength. Only Camille in 1969, Mitch in 1998, Allen in 1980, the Labor Day storm in 1935 and Gilbert in 1988 had lower central pressures.

The deadly storm smashed into Jamaica early Saturday with ferocious waves and wind nearing 155 mph. It strengthened to a Category 5 storm with 165 mph sustained winds later in the day but dropped back to 155 mph early Sunday, making it a strong Category 4.

However, forecasters warned Ivan could regain strength by Monday as it moved across warm tropical seas toward Cuba.

About 600,000 people still lacked power Sunday on Florida's east coast, where Frances struck on Sept. 5. Many Palm Beach County residents also face such nuisances as overflowing sewers.

The breadth of Hurricane Frances' damage brought President Bush to Florida for the second time in two months - a battered battleground state so in need of help.

Frances, along with Charlie, has killed more than 50 people in Florida. Thousands remain in shelters, their lives scattered like trash, their homes now giant heaps.

At the very least, Ivan is predicted to bring more heavy rains to homes with nothing but tarps, and if it plows ashore in the Panhandle, like a weaker Francis did Monday morning, an already soggy ground will shed water like a ducks' feathers, right into already-flooded homes.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center say Florida is an easy target for hurricanes - and this year's storms may become the rule, not the exception. Max Mayfield says, "More storms are coming to Florida - we've just been lucky in the past they haven't hit more lately."

Ivan has killed 56 people across the Caribbean so far this week, including 34 in Grenada and 11 in Jamaica.

"If God doesn't help us, I think this is going to be extremely tragic," said Maria del Carmen Boza, a 65-year-old resident of Cojimar, a seaside community in Cuba once frequented by Ernest Hemingway. "All of Cuba is worried. This looks like it's going to be really dangerous."

With a hurricane warning in effect from Cuba's westernmost province Pinar del Rio to central Ciego de Avila and a hurricane watch established for the rest of the island, massive evacuations are underway. Over 480,000 people had been evacuated nationwide by Saturday evening, reports CBS News Producer Portia Siegelbaum.

Ivan is expected to reach the Isle of Youth off of Cuba's southern coast Monday morning, one month to the day from Hurricane Charley's passage across the island.

But, says Cuba's top meteorologist Jose Rubiera, unlike Charley, which crossed at one of Cuba's narrowest points and in just one hour-fifty minutes, Ivan could pummel the island for much longer before leaving via the north shore. Rubiera pointed to the damage left in Charley's wake, warning TV viewers that Ivan is "not just bad but extremely bad."

Ivan stalked Jamaica's southern coast, never directly hitting the island, and may do the same with the Caymans.

Jamaican police have killed two alleged looters and four officers have been wounded in shootouts with armed looters, officials said.

Five people drowned or were struck by trees that crashed into their homes, said Ronald Jackson of Jamaica's disaster relief agency. Patterson said 11 people had been killed, but he did not elaborate.

Ivan also has been blamed for the deaths of five people in Venezuela, one in Tobago, one in Barbados, and four children in the Dominican Republic.

Jamaicans largely ignored government pleas for 500,000 people to flee flood-prone areas. Only 5,000 were in shelters when Ivan stalked the southern coast, coming to within 35 miles of Kingston.

Ivan, the fourth major hurricane of the Atlantic season, damaged dozens of homes in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent on Tuesday before making a direct hit on Grenada, which was left a wasteland of flattened houses.
  • Lloyd Vries

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