Hurricane Irene howls over Turks and Caicos

Punishing winds from Hurricane Irene howled over Turks and Caicos and the sparsely populated islands of the south eastern Bahamas as residents huddled in darkened homes, hotels and public buildings.

Islanders wary of a possible blow from Irene pulled boats ashore and packed supermarkets on the Turks and Caicos Islands before the Category 1 storm spun over open seas toward the tiny British territory, where tourism is the primary industry.

The government moved the elderly and sick to safety, and officials said power had been knocked out on the capital and light poles were being toppled.

Howling winds were rattling the storm shutters on Sandra Thompson's windows at her home in Providenciales in the eight-island British dependency located between Haiti and the Bahamas and roughly 600 miles south east of Miami.

"I can sure hear the wind howling out there. There's still a lot of rain falling outside and a lot of wind," Ms Thompson said by phone last night.

Ms Thompson and other islanders were thankful that the hurricane had lost a bit of steam as it approached the territory.

It weakened into a Category 1 storm earlier in the day. Forecasters at the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami had initially expected Irene to strengthen into a Category 3 yesterday.

By late last night, Irene was about 410 miles south east of Nassau, Bahamas, with maximum winds of 90mph. It was moving toward the west-north west near 9mph.

The hurricane centre said Irene will move across the south eastern and central Bahamas today and the north western Bahamas tomorrow. It was expected to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane this morning.

It might make landfall over the North Carolina coast on Saturday, then move to the north near the Chesapeake Bay.

By last night, only the island of Grand Turk, where Hurricane Ike damaged roughly 95% of homes in September 2008, had electricity knocked out amid Irene's passage, according to government spokesman Kendol Morgan.

Hunkered down in a government building on Grand Turk, Mr Morgan said he had not heard of any initial reports of any injuries or major damage. But authorities were not yet able to assess the full extent of storm damage as torrential downpours and powerful winds made surveillance by authorities almost impossible.

"It's early days still," Mr Morgan said by phone from Grand Turk, the islands' capital, where there are about a half-dozen hotels.

Tourism is the primary industry in Turks and Caicos, which have little natural protection from powerful storm surges. The Caribbean island chain has also been a hot stop for celebrities for years.

The government assured people it has enough emergency supplies available, and that a Royal Navy ship is on standby in Curacao.

In the Bahamas, the military expected to deploy small teams to Acklins, Cat Island, Eleuthera and Abaco, said prime minister Hubert Ingraham.

He said if Irene strengthens to a Category 3 hurricane, it will damage roofs and weak structures. He urged islanders to prepare supplies and pick up debris that whipping winds could turn into dangerous projectiles.

"We cannot replace life. Hence my urgent and repeated appeals for the observance of safety measures," he said.

Irene was still impacting the northern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where crews have begun cleaning up debris and the government warned of flooding. Officials said more than 1,000 people were evacuated.

In Puerto Rico, a 62-year-old woman died after she tried to cross a swollen river in her car, police said.

In the United States, residents from Florida to the Carolinas stocked up on supplies and readied for the worst from Irene.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick