Hurricane Lenny Pounds Caribbean
At least four people have died in the storm, which has ravaged coastal areas from Colombia to the Dutch island of St. Maarten.
As of Thursday afternoon, the storm was stalled 35 miles west-southwest of St. Maartin and is forecasted to move slowly to the east-northeast. Lenny is currently classified as a Category Four storm, capable of causing extensive damage and a 13 to 18 foot storm surge.
Earlier Thursday morning, the storm forced a Russian freighter carrying cement to run aground near 17th-century El Morro fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Although forecasters predict Lenny will not strike the U.S., meteorologist Stacy Stewart at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the Florida coast could still feel the hurricane’s effects.
“The influence of this storm is going to be felt considerable distances away,” Stewart said
Lenny, the fifth major hurricane of the season, began to batter the Caribbean Wednesday, causing some of its worst damage on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“There’s extensive damage to the waterfront,” St. Croix resident Herb Shoenbaum told Reuters. “About 20 roofs off to the west of the island. Power and telephone lines down in a few places.”
When St. Croix sustained a direct hit from the storm Wednesday night, Lenny’s wind speeds had increased to 150 mph — just 5 mph short of Category Five strength.
The storm cut power and telephone service to many homes, uprooted trees and caused damage to structures.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would send damage assessors to the Virgin Islands Thursday. Medical teams were sent to the islands before the storm hit.
Of the four deaths attributed to the storm, two died in Colombia, one in St. Maartin and one in Puerto Rico.