Hurricane Moving Parallel to U.S.; Death Toll at 118

Jessica Robertson in Nassau, Bahamas
Associated Press
November 2, 2007

Hurricane Noel, the deadliest Atlantic storm this year, was traveling north on Friday, parallel to the United States' eastern coast and losing strength as it headed toward Nova Scotia.

Noel slammed the Caribbean earlier this week with heavy rains that caused flooding and mudslides, leaving 118 dead, officials said.

After drenching the Bahamas and Cuba on Thursday, the Category 1 hurricane continued along its path between the southeastern coast of the U.S. and the Bahamas.

Its sustained winds were at 80 miles an hour (130 kilometers an hour) early Friday, and its center was about 470 miles (760 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Noel is moving to the north-northeast at about 18 miles an hour (30 kilometers an hour).

"We don't expect the center to cross the U.S. coast. The track would take the center of the system over Nova Scotia," Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the center, said Friday.

But Beven also said the storm "is going to increase rather significantly in size" and that its effects could be felt in the U.S.

Forecasters say two to four inches (five to ten centimeters) of rain could fall in North Carolina's Outer Banks, while isolated areas of New England might see 6 inches (15 centimeters).

On Thursday muddy, rain-swollen waters overflowed a dam in Cuba, washing into hundreds of homes, over highways, and knocking out electricity and telephone service. Dozens of small communities were cut off.

Cuban soldiers went door to door in low-lying areas and evacuated about 24,000 people, according to state radio and television reports. At least 2,000 homes were damaged by floodwaters, but there was no official word of deaths.

In Ciego de Ávila province in central Cuba, flooding wiped out nearly 2,000 tons of corn, potato, banana, cucumber, and tomato harvests, said Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, one of the country's several vice presidents.

The storm brought a record 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain to the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said.

Flooding killed at least one man in the Bahamas and forced the evacuation of almost 400 people. Ingraham said the majority of the evacuees were from Abaco Island in the northeast Bahamas.

Residents of Andros Island, one of the least developed in the Bahamas, hunkered down as Noel's winds howled and rain pelted windowpanes.

Rescuers in the Dominican Republic took off in helicopters and boats to reach isolated residents for the first time in three days. Hundreds of volunteers joined Dominican civil defense forces to help stranded residents as rescue teams left at dawn Thursday—many in boats loaned by private owners.

More than three days of heavy rain caused an estimated 30 million U.S. dollars in damages to the Dominican Republic's rice, plantain, and cacao plantations, said Minister of Economy Juan Temistocles Montas.

Rescuers in Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, found a rising toll of death and damage: at least 73 dead in the Dominican Republic and 43 in Haiti, where the majority of bodies were found in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince. One person was killed in Jamaica.

——

Associated Press writers Ramon Almanzar in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Jonathan M. Katz in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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