Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the central Bahamas Thursday morning after crossing eastern Cuba as a category 2 hurricane.
The storm made landfall early Thursday morning just west of Santiago de Cuba, about 60 miles west of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay. Cuban media reported that the government had evacuated 450 tourists from beach resorts near Santiago.
There were no immediate reports of the extent of damage or injuries caused by the storm in Cuba. Hurricane Sandy was blamed for one death in Jamaica and one in Haiti Wednesday.
At 7 a.m. CDT, the center of the storm was about 75 miles northeast of Holguin, Cuba and 130 miles south of Great Exuma in the central Bahamas. According to the National Hurricane Center, Sandy was moving to north at 18 mph.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the central and northwestern Bahamas and the Ragged Islands in the southeastern Bahamas. NHC forecasters expected the storm to maintain its northerly course today, before making a slight turn toward the northwest tonight.
Sandy was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the NHC, which anticipated the storm would gradually weaken as it approached the Bahamas. However, Sandy was expected to still be a hurricane when it reached the islands.
Hurricane-force winds extended out 25 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds could be felt as much as 140 miles from the center. Guantanamo Bay was still experiencing sustained winds of 39 mph and gusts up to 51 mph.
The central and northwest Bahamas were expecting 3-6 inches of rain on average from the storm, according to the NHC, with some spots possibly receiving up to 12 inches. A dangerous storm surge of 5-8 feet above normal tide levels was expected to accompany the hurricane’s arrival in the Bahamas.
Sandy has scrambled the itineraries of a number of cruise ships in the Caribbean. Among the vessels affected were Carnival Glory and Carnival Pride, which replaced scheduled stops in the Bahamas with a visit to Port Canaveral, Fla. The Norwegian Jewel was supposed to be in Nassau Friday, but will sail instead to Charleston, S.C.
The east coast of the United States could also feel the impact of Sandy. A tropical storm watch or warning is in place for much of the east coast of Florida, which could see a storm surge of 1-2 feet from the storm.
“Interests elsewhere along the east coast of the United States should monitor the progress of Sandy,” the NHC cautioned.