18 Aug 2008

Storm batters Cuba coast, en route to Florida

5:21 pm on 18 August 2008

Tropical Storm Fay raked Cuba's southern coast with gusty winds and heavy rains on Sunday and was expected to move ashore overnight before heading to Florida as a hurricane.

The United States National Hurricane Centre in Miami said maximum sustained winds were 80 kilometres an hour, but Cuban forecasters said gusts up to 110 km/h had been recorded at Cabo Cruz, which juts out into the Caribbean.

The storm, which killed at least five peole when it struck Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, was expected to make landfall around midnight, cross the island and enter the Florida Straits by mid-morning on Monday.

Hurricane watches were posted along much of Cuba's central and western coast, including Havana, but Jorge Rubiera, chief of Cuba's weather centre, said he did not expect Fay to become a hurricane, which has minimum winds of 118 km/h.

But the United States National Hurricane Centre said that Fay, once back out over water, would pick up steam and possibly hit Florida Keys on Monday night as a hurricane.

Hurricane watches were posted in the Keys and along Florida's west coast.