Hurricane Lenny Pounds NE Caribbean
Nov. 19, 1999
THE VALLEY, Anguilla (AP) _ Slowed to a dangerous, unnerving crawl, Hurricane Lenny pounded the Dutch, French and British islands of the northeast Caribbean on Thursday and left a trail of death and debris in its wake.
The late-season storm has killed at least seven people and left three others missing from Colombia to Dutch St. Maarten in the northeast Caribbean. Lenny has rattled nerves throughout the region as it zigzaged along a rare west-to-east course before stalling off St. Maarten.
``We are in a very dangerous situation,'' St. Maarten's Lt. Gov. Dennis Richardson said Thursday. ``We expect conditions to get a lot worse.''
Whipping up huge waves, Lenny pounded the island's main port, said a reporter at GVBC Radio. He said the storm was ``flinging shipping containers about like toys.'' Then the telephone connection broke.
Lenny's winds had powered up to 150 mph on Wednesday when it battered the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix for 12 hours, stripping roofs, flooding buildings and roads, tearing away a pier and strewing boats like debris across the beach at the yacht club, some piled on top of each other.
Wednesday night, with its winds still a frightening 135 mph, it moved to St. Martin, the island shared by French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten, and continued its pounding.
By late Thursday afternoon, its winds were at 120 mph as the storm moved toward a direct hit on St. Maarten. The storm was expected to start a slow move to the northeast, hammering the Dutch island of Saba, French St. Barts and Anguilla, a British territory, according to Robert Molleda, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
The hurricane was unlikely to strike the mainland United States but could bring heavy surf capable of eroding beaches in Florida, hundreds of miles away, said Stacy Stewart at the Miami center.
St. Maarten Public Works Commissioner Roy Marlin worried that the storm would cause Great Salt Pond in the middle of the capital, Philipsburg, to overflow and flood the town. Sea surges had already swamped half of the city.
Dominica's Kairi-FM radio said three people were missing on St. Martin, and that at least 500 people were homeless as a result of flooding in the French Caribbean territories.
Lenny has caused havoc as far away as South America. On Tuesday, it was blamed for the drowning deaths of two fishermen off Colombia's Caribbean peninsula, and its relentless rains destroyed half a coastal village, leaving 540 people homeless.
Two men were swept away Thursday by waves and drowned in Dominica and Guadeloupe, and an elderly woman was killed when her house collapsed on her in Martinique, according to various radio reports.
One man died Wednesday in the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan, after he fell off a ladder while boarding up windows. A man in St. Maarten died the same day when the garden wall of his hillside home collapsed on him.
The storm beached and sank boats from Aruba, off Venezuela's coast, to Dominica in the east-central Caribbean. In St. Lucia, some houses were washed away and a gasoline station was set ablaze when pounding waves caused a short-circuit that ignited kerosene.
Twelve-foot waves stripped sand from Anguilla's famous beaches, which were already damaged by Hurricane Jose last month. Nearly 100 tourists had to be evacuated from a flooded hotel.
In Puerto Rico, a 560-foot Russian freighter carrying cement was battered by the waves and ran aground by San Juan's 17th-century El Morro fortress.
Power and telephones were cut in many areas of several islands, including St. Croix.
An unidentified tourist who left his St. Croix hotel to see the rising surf was carried away by waves and had to cling to a rock for more than an hour before local divers rescued him.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency sent medical teams to the Virgin Islands ahead of the storm. The agency's director, James Lee Witt, told reporters that damage assessors would fly in Thursday.
He said that while the hurricane damaged roofs, including that of the national armory, they did not expect major damage.
St. Croix Gov. Charles Turnbull has asked President Clinton to declare the island a disaster area, making it eligible for federal disaster aid. The hurricane is a major blow to the territory, which has a $1 billion debt and still owes $8 million for federal disaster loans from Hurricane Marilyn and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.