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Lili Closing in on Cuba, Leaving 8 Dead Behind

October 17, 1996

ISLAMORADA, Fla. (AP) _ Leaving eight people dead in its wake across Central America, Hurricane Lili closed in on Cuba with 75 mph winds Thursday and unloaded rain on already saturated South Florida.

Cuba said it was ready to evacuate 86,000 people in the Havana area, and a hurricane warning was posted for two-thirds of the island.

The hurricane was expected to cross Cuba early Friday, squeeze through the Florida Straits separating Cuba and Florida, and head for the Bahamas. Forecasters said Florida will probably get no more than glancing blow.

On Thursday afternoon, Lili was centered about 185 miles southwest of Havana and 415 miles southwest of Miami. It was moving northeast at 9 mph.

Lili left thousands homeless and stranded more as rain-gorged rivers made bridges and roads impassable in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. Costa Rican authorities said a child and two adults were reported dead Wednesday, in addition to the five drownings reported in the region on Tuesday.

``I’ve put up some shutters on the house, but not the business,″ said Ed Davidson, a dive shop operator in Marathon, Fla. ``In the Keys, in `Manana County,′ we don’t get too serious. When it starts to blow the foam off your beer, then it’s time to get serious.″

In Mexico, the port on the island of Cozumel was closed, and 20 shelters opened to take people evacuating low-lying areas. A hurricane watch was in effect in the Cayman Islands.

In South Florida, rain kept falling on ground drenched even before Tropical Storm Josephine hit last week. As much as 8 inches of rain fell in two days this week in the Keys, and Hollywood, outside Miami, got 4.4 inches on Wednesday alone.

Water managers prepared for more rain by opening drainage canal floodgates across much of the Miami area.

Gary Nichols worried the storm would damage his 10,000 stone-crab and lobster traps and began hauling in as many as he could 12 miles off the Keys.

Bill Kuban, who owns a manufacturing company in Minneapolis, was afraid his Keys vacation was ruined. ``We spent $5,000 for one week for a house, and we came down here and they say it’s going to rain for five days,″ he said.

His friend Joann Hiebel said, ``It certainly makes you think about a Plan B when there’s a hurricane coming.″

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