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Jeanne Strengthens Into Hurricane
2004 09 17

By Manuel Ernesto Rivera Associated Press

Jeanne Strengthens Into Hurricane
YABUCOA, Puerto Rico -- Jeanne strengthened from a tropical storm into the sixth hurricane of the season Thursday, a day after lashing Puerto Rico with damaging winds and rain that knocked out power, flooded roads and killed two people.

A hurricane warning was posted for eastern and northern coasts of the Dominican Republic, as forecasters told the storm-weary Caribbean to monitor the progress of Jeanne, which had 80 mph winds with higher gusts.

The storm could potentially reach Florida, Georgia and South Carolina by the beginning of next week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Jeanne was hugging the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, moving west near 9 mph, with a gradual turn toward the west-northwest expected in the next 24 hours.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.

But even as a tropical storm, Jeanne was powerful enough to cause havoc in Puerto Rico.

More than 1,000 people evacuated low-lying areas for shelters Wednesday as deluges of rain blocked roads, downed power lines and flooded homes throughout the U.S. Caribbean territory. Some 200,000 people also were without running water.

Police rescued one couple from a car stuck in rising floodwaters on a main highway in north-coast Rio Grande before the vehicle was swept away, authorities said.

"They got out through the window," emergency official Hector Rosa said.

Others were not so fortunate.

Lashing winds tore the roof from Margarita Rivera's house, flung her from a hammock and smashed her into the wall of a neighbor's house, said Mayor Angel Garcia of Yabucoa, the southeastern town where the storm's eye hit land. Rivera, who died, was 49.

In north-coast Vega Baja, 78-year-old Arturo Roman Crespo died instantly after falling from a roof where he was putting up storm shutters, police said. They also reported a man injured in the central town of Lares when a downed tree hit his car.

Agriculture officials said plantain, banana and coffee crops probably sustained major damage.

The storm plowed northwest across the middle of the island and exited near Vega Baja, said meteorologist Scott Stripling of the U.S. National Weather Service.

Jeanne dumped up to 16 inches of rain on Puerto Rico that could continue through Friday because the storm's tail extended far past St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, said Rafael Mojica, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist.

About 50,000 people lost power in St. Croix, but half were back by evening, officials said. Airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands remained closed.

Jeanne is expected to skirt the northeast coast of the Hispaniola island, where floods in May killed more than 3,000 in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The Dominican government evacuated hundreds of people Wednesday from the north coast and outlying island of Saona.

Jeanne is then expected to pass the 700-island Bahamas chain, recently battered by Hurricane Frances, the Hurricane Center said.

Wind gusts near 80 mph buffeted the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico, home to some 4 million people.

In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, airports were closed and businesses shuttered. Wednesday night, people mobbed a Ben and Jerry's ice cream parlor that was giving away ice cream that otherwise would spoil in the blacked-out Puerto Rican capital.

Jeanne became the 10th named storm of a busy Atlantic season Tuesday. Three major hurricanes have been through in two weeks -- Charley, Frances and the deadliest of them all, Ivan, which killed 68 people in the Caribbean.

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