Hurricane Erika Spares Leeward Islands So Far
CHARLESTOWN, Nevis (Reuter) - Hurricane Erika strengthened slightly off the Leeward Islands Saturday with winds of up to 85 mph, but islanders on the volcano-ravaged British colony of Montserrat watched the funeral of Princess Diana on television undisturbed and reported no damage overnight.
"The danger has passed, the hurricane passed by and we had a little rain but no wind," said resident Joan Sweeney by telephone. "We have not been affected at all."
"I think the whole island is watching (the funeral), we have cable here."
A hurricane warning was in force from west of the island of Barbuda west-northwestward through St. Martin, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
On St. Martin authorities imposed a precautionary curfew early Saturday, with only people in service jobs who needed to leave their homes allowed on the streets.
"It's precautionary," said Derek Jack, a manager at the Great Bay Beach Hotel and Casino in Philipsburg.
"It's to make sure that everybody is safe. Just stay home and be with the family."
On the islands of Antigua, St. Kitts, and Nevis, gusty winds blew in the morning hours, bringing just a few light showers.
Erika formed Wednesday and grew to hurricane strength early Friday.
Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands were under a hurricane watch, meaning that hurricane conditions could be felt within 36 hours.
At 2 p.m. EDT, the eye of the hurricane was located at latitude 19.1 north, longitude 61.5 west, about 100 miles east of St. Martin and moving west-northwest at about 12 mph. It was expected to remain on that track for at least 24 hours with some fluctuations in intensity.
The islands of the north and eastern Caribbean are frequently hit by hurricanes born off the west coast of Africa, including Hurricane Marilyn in September 1995, which hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hurricane Hortense, which unleashed deadly floods and mudslides in Puerto Rico last September.
Hurricane Hugo caused catastrophic damage in the Caribbean in 1989, damaging 90 percent of the buildings in Montserrat alone.
4:06 PM EDT