Hurricane Sandy was churning north of the Bahamas Friday afternoon after causing widespread damage to that nation’s central and northwestern islands.
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie told the Nassau Guardian that he hoped to make an aerial inspection of the hardest-hit islands sometime today, including Cat Island, Long Island, and Ragged Island.
Christie said he hoped ports in the Bahamas would be able to reopen Saturday, allowing cruise ships to resume their visits. Tourism is an important sector of the nation’s economy and officials said more than 22,000 visitors per day were being lost due to the storm.
With Sandy expected to move up the east coast of the United States this weekend, the problem may be getting ships out of American ports to make their scheduled trips to the Bahamas and other destinations. Norwegian Jewel was calling in Norfolk, Va. Friday, and was scheduled to be in New York City on Sunday. After canceling a Friday port of call in the Dominican Republic, Norwegian Gem was scheduled to return to New York on Monday. The cruise line said it was still expecting all Saturday through Monday cruise departures to occur as scheduled.
The Caribbean Princess was scheduled to sail to Bermuda Saturday, but will not call on the island due to the storm. Bermuda is currently under a tropical storm watch as Hurricane Sandy is expected to pass between Bermuda and the American coast early next week.
At 1 p.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the center of Sandy was about 30 miles north-northeast of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. The storm was moving to the north at 7 mph.
The storm was about 430 miles south-southeast of Charleston, S.C. Tropical storm watches or warnings stretched from the east coast of Florida to North Carolina. However, the NHC expected the storm to turn to the northeast over the weekend, avoiding landfall until sometime early next week farther up the east coast.
Sandy’s maximum sustained winds had diminished to 75 mph, according to the NHC, but no further weakening of the storm was expected over the weekend. Strong winds from the hurricane were still being felt in parts of the northwest Bahamas, with an automated weather station near Freeport on Grand Bahama Island reporting gusts up to 58 mph.
The storm has been blamed for at least 29 deaths in the Caribbean. The Associated Press reported the latest fatality was a 66-year-old resident of Lyford Cay in the Bahamas, who fell from his roof while trying to fix a window shutter. The government of Cuba reported 11 deaths from the storm, which cut across the island early Thursday. At least 16 people were killed in Haiti, where Sandy caused major flooding, and one person died in Jamaica, where the hurricane first made landfall Wednesday.