Category 2 Sandy slams Cuba

People remove a boat from the water ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy in Manzanillo, Cuba, yesterday.

HAVANA — Hurricane Sandy, strengthening rapidly after crossing the warm Caribbean Sea, slammed into southeastern Cuba early today with 105 mph winds that cut power and blew over trees across the city of Santiago de Cuba.

A Cuban television reporter, reporting by telephone from the communist island’s second largest city, held the phone up to a window so viewers could hear Sandy’s roaring winds that he said had left the city “completely dark” and created a “very tense” situation.

He said the Category 2 storm had toppled many trees across the city of 500,000 people situated some 470 miles southeast of the capital Havana.

At 5 a.m. the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said Sandy, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, was preparing to move off Cuba’s northeastern coast.

29-foot waves

The eye of the storm came ashore just west of the city with waves up to 29 feet and a six-foot storm surge that caused extensive coastal flooding, Jose Rubiera of the Cuban weather service said in a television report.

Heavy rains were falling throughout the storm-stricken region, with forecasters predicting six to 12 inches for most areas and as much as 20 inches in isolated places.

Rubiera said Sandy had intensified rapidly as it neared land fuelled by 88 degree (31 Celsius) waters on its way from Jamaica, struck earlier in the day by the storm when it was still at Category 1 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale.

A Category 2 storm has winds between 96 and 110 mph, leaving Sandy within a whisker of becoming a Category 3 hurricane. (Reuters)

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