Weather News

Caribbean islands cautious of Hugo

National Weather Service

More from the series

Hurricane Hugo coverage from The State: Sept. 17 - Sept. 24, 1989

Read more stories from The State’s original reporting of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. From Hugo’s collision with the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico to its catastrophic landfall near Charleston, The State kept readers up-to-date with vital news about the event that turned into the worst storm South Carolina has ever seen.

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This story was first published in The State on September 17, 1989.

Residents boarded up homes and stockpiled supplies on Saturday as Hurricane Hugo churned toward the popular resort islands of the eastern Caribbean with deadly winds of up to 140 mph.

Forecasters described Hugo as “extremely dangerous” and said it could be the most powerful hurricane to hit the region since Hurricane David in 1979. That storm killed an estimated 1,200 people in the Caribbean and Florida.

Saturday night, Hugo’s center was about 75 miles east-southeast of the French island of Guadeloupe, which it was expected to hit Saturday night, then move north toward Puerto Rico, said forecaster Martin Nelson at the National Hurricane Center near Miami.

The hurricane was moving west-northwest at 12 mph, sending showers and gusty winds to the eastern edge of the Caribbean and threatening islands over a 600-mile arc stretching from St. Lucia to Puerto Rico.

“It’s a very dangerous storm, extremely dangerous in fact,” Nelson said.

The National Weather Service in Miami issues hurricane warnings Saturday for the U.S. Virgin Islands and for Puerto Rico, which previously had been on a hurricane watch. The warnings were posted from Martinique northward and westward through Puerto Rico, including the British Virgin Islands and St. Martin and surrounding islands.

Tropical storm watches for the islands of Barbados and St. Vincent were discontinued, and a warning for St. Lucia was changed to a tropical storm watch.

Forecasters said waves 10 feet above normal could be expected near the eye of Hugo and warned of heavy rain and flooding.

In Guadaloupe and Dominica, the first two islands directly in Hugo’s path, civil defense officials prepared to evacuate people to rescue shelters.

Jeremy Collymore, head of Pan-American Disaster Project in Antigua, said several relief teams from the United States already were headed to the region.

State radio said a heavy downpour set off a landslide early Saturday on Dominica’s isolated southeast side, which faces the Atlantic, partly blocking a road but causing no injuries. The Public Works Department deployed earthmoving equipment at strategic points across the island.

Non-critically ill patients at Princess Margaret Hospital in the capital of Roseau were sent home late Friday and early Saturday to make room for possible hurricane victims.

The government of Dominica urged its citizens via radio to take emergency precautions, and said police were put on alert “to deal with any security problem which might arise.” There was widespread looting after Hurricane David battered the tiny island of 81,000 people.

In Guadaloupe, which has a population of 340,000, heavy traffic built up in Point-a-Pietre, the biggest city, late Friday as people rushed supermarkets and hardware stores, stocking up on food, bottle water and supplies such as flashlights, batteries, timber, nails and tape.

The government ordered all pedestrians and cars to be off the streets by 6 p.m. in what amounted to a curfew. The directions were broadcast on radio stations.

Residents boarded up doors and windows of their homes and many on the Atlantic side fled inland.

At Le Meridien, a luxury, 271-room beachfront hotel in St. Francois, a woman who answered the telephone said guests were being moved from ground-floor rooms and those facing the ocean. But she said none of the 100 guests had checked out.

“Many people are worried; nobody’s hysterical,” said the hotel employee.

In Paris, Air France canceled all three of its flights scheduled Saturday to Guadeloupe’s sister island, Martinique, and British Airways canceled its flight from London to Antigua, where the airport was closed.

Forecasters said if the storm remained on its westerly course it would probably pass within 50 miles south of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday afternoon and continue on to the south coast of Puerto Rico by Sunday night.

Officials in Puerto Rico said up to 6,000 people might have to be evacuated from flood-prone areas if Hugo passes near the densely populated island of 3.3 million.

Hugo is the eighth named storm of the current Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.