The storm, named "Lenny", was stalled yesterday evening about 35 miles south-west of the Franco-Dutch island of St Maarten. But the "category 4" hurricane - with sustained winds of 135mph - is expected to resume a north-easterly path, which would take it directly over St Maarten and the British island of Anguilla.
Pamela Adams, a receptionist at the Malliouhana Hotel in Meads Bay, Anguilla, said by telephone last night: "We are trying to take care of the guests the best way we can. They tell us there is a huge hurricane out there and all we can do is wait. There is really no way of knowing when it will hit us, but it is already blowing hard." The hotel is popular with a number of Hollywood stars, including Harrison Ford.
The storm has weakened slightly since Wednesday when it battered the US and British Virgin Islands with winds of 150mph. US officials had unconfirmed reports of four deaths on St Croix, where the waterfront area was damaged. Two fishermen were also reported to have been killed on the coast of Colombia, and one man died when his house collapsed in St Maarten. In Puerto Rico, a Russian freighter carrying cement was driven aground near San Juan's 17th-century El Morro fortress.
Waves more than 12ft high have been battering the Leeward Islands, stripping sand from beaches. In Anguilla, the sand has vanished from many beaches, robbing the island of its prime tourist attraction. Heavy rains have cut off all power, and guests have been evacuated from one flooded hotel.
The hurricane appears to be following a "backward" trajectory from west to east that surprised forecasters.