Hurricane Dean forecasted to become "catastrophic" Category 5 storm

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hurricane Dean forecast update at 8 a.m. (EDT) update on August 18, 2007, courtesy of NOAA.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami is calling Hurricane Dean "extremely dangerous," saying that the storm is gaining strength and will likely become a Category 5 storm. The storm's winds are currently clocked at 150 mph, classifying it as a Category 4 hurricane. A Category 5 hurricane means the storm has winds of over 155 mph and has the potential to cause "catastrophic" damage.

Dean is currently moving through the eastern Caribbean, and is heading towards the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The storm is expected to hit Jamaica on Sunday, and then gain even more power as it strikes Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Monday.

Dean could hit the mainland of the United States on Wednesday. Therefore, officials in Texas and Louisiana are currently making major preparations.

Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, said the hurricane is an "imminent threat," saying the state is preparing for its arrival. Task forces have been put on alert, and supply trucks and other resources are in position.

Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana declared a state of emergency yesterday so local governments can move forward with emergency plans if necessary. However, forecasters say there is little chance of Dean moving toward Louisiana. Instead, the storm is expected to threaten Mexico or Texas.

A hurricane watch has been issued for Haiti from the Haiti/Dominican Republic border to Port-au-Prince. Jamaica has opened all shelters and Cuba has declared a "state of alert" in preparation for the storm.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the U.S. and Spanish Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Dean was about 240 miles south-southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and 660 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and was moving west at 14 mph. However, the storm is expected to pick up speed today.

Hurricane Dean could force NASA to cut short Endeavour's flight. Mission management team chairman Leroy Cain said, "We'd really like to protect an option to be able to end the mission on Tuesday."

The Associated Press reports several deaths and significant damage on the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and Martinique.

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