Storm becomes category 5 after lashing Aruba

Hurricane Felix strengthened into a

dangerous Category 5 storm Sunday and churned its way into the open

waters of the Caribbean Sea after toppling trees and flooding some

homes on a cluster of Dutch islands.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Felix was packing

maximum sustained winds of 165 mph as it plowed westward toward

Central America, where it was expected to skirt Honduras' coastline

Tuesday before slamming into Belize on Wednesday as a hurricane

capable of massive destruction.

On Sunday, Felix lashed Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire with rains

and winds, causing scattered power outages and forcing thousands of

tourists to take refuge in hotels. But residents expressed relief

it did far less damage than feared as the storm's outer bands just

grazed the tiny islands.

"Thankfully we didn't get a very bad storm. My dog slept

peacefully through the night," said Bonaire medical administrator

Siomara Albertus, who waited out the storm in her home.

The storm forced tens of thousands of tourists and residents on

the three islands to remain in their homes and hotels, stocked with

water, flashlights and emergency provisions.

In Curacao, about a dozen homes in a low-lying area were

flooded. In Aruba, there was little visible damage, although at

least one catamaran snapped off its mooring and a house was damaged

by a downed tree. A northern settlement had a temporary power


Many Bonaire residents had prepared for the worst, installing

storm shutters and hauling their boats ashore, but the storm's

winds left little damage.

Felix became the second Atlantic hurricane of the season on

Saturday evening, following Hurricane Dean, which left at least 20

dead in the Caribbean and carved out a destructive swath that

stretched from St. Lucia to Mexico.

At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 390 miles southeast

of Jamaica and was moving west-northwest at about 18 mph, the

hurricane center said.

On Saturday, Felix brought heavy rains and strong winds to

Grenada as a tropical storm, ripping roofs off at least two homes

and destroying a popular concert venue. No injuries were reported

and the Grenadian government was still assessing the damage Sunday.

The government of the Cayman Islands issued a tropical storm

watch for Grand Cayman, the wealthy British territory's main

island. A watch means that tropical storm conditions could begin

affecting the island within 36 hours.

Jamaica's government also issued a tropical storm watch. The

island was battered by Hurricane Dean on Aug. 19.

In Belize, residents stocked up on water and food, and nailed

boards over their windows to protect against the hurricane's

howling winds. Many in low-lying areas sought higher ground.

Things were more calm in Honduras, where authorities were

keeping a close eye on the storm but hadn't started evacuations.

Along the country's northern coastline, tourists were still

lounging by the pool and enjoying the sun.

On Honduras' Roatan Island, home to luxury resorts and pristine

reefs, the weather was normal and guests were simply enjoying their

vacations, Mayan Princess Beach Resort & Spa employee Arturo Rich


Rebecca Waddington, a meteorologist at the hurricane center,

advised employees of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor

Felix's progress and said the storm could reach the area in four to

five days.

Along the Pacific coast of Mexico, meanwhile, authorities

discontinued storm warnings as Tropical Storm Henriette moved out

to sea.

Henriette dumped heavy rain on western Mexico earlier, loosening

a giant boulder that smashed into a home in Acapulco, killing an

adult and two children and injuring two other people. A teenager

and her two brothers were also killed when a landslide slammed into

their house in a poor neighborhood of the resort city.

Forecasters put it on a path that would not threaten land until

Thursday, when it could hit a remote section of the Baja California



Associated Press Writer Linda Straker in St. George's, Grenada,

contributed to this report.


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