Marco, Downgraded to Storm, Nears Jamaica

Originally published
MIAMI (Reuter) - Jamaica braced for a battering but Hurricane Marco weakened and was downgraded to a tropical storm as it crept near the Caribbean island.

The Jamaican government replaced its hurricane warning with a tropical storm warning and hurricane watches for Haiti and eastern Cuba were similarly downgraded Wednesday.

"It's looking a little ragged," Mike Hopkins, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said.

Torrential rains of up to 15 inches were still expected to drive in alongside the storm, the center said in an advisory.

Marco has barely moved over the last few hours. At 4 p.m. EST, Marco's center was 215 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica, at latitude 14.9 north and longitude 77.4 west.

It was expected to trek northeastwards at about 6 mph to 9 mph during the next 24 hours, bringing it near to Jamaica then close to Cuba over the next 36 hours.

Maximum sustained winds decreased to near 70 mph and were expected to weaken further, the center said. They were extending up to 140 miles from the eye.

The Jamaican government had warned residents to prepare for rough weather as Marco headed toward the island dumping torrential rain in its path.

The Jamaica Office of Disaster Preparedness said the island had already been lashed by heavy rains since Oct. 23, causing $3 million in damages to roads and drainage systems. About 170 families were without shelter because of flooding.

Disaster committees were on full alert, urging people to stock up on batteries and canned food. But there had been no rain in Kingston by midday on Wednesday and there was no sense of panic, residents said.

Honduras and the Dominican Republic were also drenched by heavy rains, not related to Marco, which left thousands of people homeless.

Domincan authorities said four hydroelectric dams had filled up and rivers flooded with the overspill. Wide areas were under water including farmlands, Civil Defense Director Eugenio Cabral said.

More than 7,000 people driven from their homes by rains in Honduras and one person was killed on Tuesday, local radio stations said.

The National Hurricane Centre said downpours would last over Central America over the next day or two, causing flash floods and mudslides.

On Tuesday, Nicaraguan civil defense authorities blamed at least two deaths on Marco after flooding washed away homes in the Pacific coast and northern regions.

A tropical storm graduates to hurricane status when maximum winds exceed 74 mph. The Atlantic hurricane season ends on
Nov. 30.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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