MANZANILLO, Cuba – Hurricane Sandy rumbled across mountainous eastern Cuba on Thursday as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rains and blistering winds that ripped the roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops, but caused no known fatalities on the island.
Two people died elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Even as it pummeled Cuba’s rural eastern half, Sandy refused to lose intensity as storms normally do when they cross over land, raising fears that small mountain villages still unheard from might not have been ready for its wrath.
“It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure,” said Jose Rubiera, the island’s chief meteorologist.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sandy emerged off Cuba’s northeast coast around dawn and was moving north at 18 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. It was expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas.
Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city near the eastern tip of the island, was spared the worst of the storm, which slammed into the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.
Some 5,000 tourists at beach resorts in Holguin were evacuated ahead of the storm, along with 10,200 residents, according to Cuban media. Another 3,000 people in low lying areas of Las Tunas were moved away before Sandy arrived.
A tropical storm warning was extended northward as far as Flagler Beach and a tropical storm watch was issued for the northeastern Florida coast.
Sandy also may combine with other weather systems to create a major storm over the northeastern U.S. next week, according to federal and private forecasters.
“It’ll be a rough couple days from Hatteras up to Cape Cod,” said forecaster Jim Cisco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prediction center in College Park, Maryland. “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”
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