Friday, October 15, 2010

A weakening Paula drenches Cuba

Posted on Thursday, 10.14.10
A weakening Paula drenches Cuba

Blustery and wet but with fast-weakening winds, Tropical Storm Paula
lashed Cuba on Thursday, following a track that once again spared South
Florida from serious impacts in a busy hurricane season.

At 5 p.m., the National Hurricane Center reported the storm was 40 miles
southwest of Havana after making landfall on the northwestern coast near
Puerto Esperanza, where a top gust of 68 mph was recorded. Drenching
downpours stretched from the northwestern tip of the island to Jose
Marti Airport, which reported steady 23 mph winds, gusts to 37 mph and
heavy rain and ``towering cumulus clouds'' were reported.

Conditions in the Lower and Middle Keys were much milder -- drizzly gray
skies mixed with stronger thunderstorms -- and the hurricane center
expected to lift a tropical storm watch stretching from near Islamorada
to the Dry Tortugas later Thursday.

Still, the weather was expected to deteriorate through the evening and
into early Friday as Paula continued to move east across Cuba.

Some portions of the Keys could see upwards of three inches of rain from
Paula, said Bill Cottrill, a forecaster with the National Weather
Service in Key West -- but things should begin clearing up quickly on
Friday. Key West had recorded an inch by early afternoon.

``It's not a downpour,'' he said. ``It's not going to cause any flooding
of significance.''

The rain chances for the Lower and Middle Keys on Friday were 40
percent. For Miami-Dade and Broward, there was a 20 percent chance of
scattered showers.

Paula still made for bad boating weather -- particularly offshore south
of Key West, where the forecast was for seas of eight feet.

Paula's winds had dropped to 60 mph from 100 mph the previous day as
wind and forecasters expected the storm would continue to gradually
weaken from the effects of strong wind shear, dry air and Cuba's
mountainous terrain.

On its projected track, Paula would travel along Cuba's mountainous
spine, where forecasters predicted it would weaken to a depression
Friday. By Saturday, it was expected to dissolve into a disorganized
mass of storms and dip south as it approached the southern Bahamas a
mass of thunderstorms.

Forecasters expected the storm to produce from two to four inches of
rain in western and central Cuba, with 10 inches possible in spots.
Paula could also produce from two to four feet of storm surge as well as
large waves.

In Cuba, there were no initial reports of significant damage. In Pinar
del Rio, a province on the western tip of the island, residents did not
seem flustered by Paula.

``The rains have not been as intense as we had expected,'' Aliuska
Banos, 28, told The Associated Press by telephone from the town of
Sandino. ``There were gusts of wind this morning, but they were not even
strong enough to knock down my television antenna, which is pretty weak.''

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