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Late-Season Hurricane Hits Cuba : 300,000 Evacuated; Storm Also Damages Florida Keys

from Associated Press

Hurricane Kate raged through Cuba Tuesday, knocking out telephones, electricity and gas with its 115 m.p.h. winds and forcing the evacuation of 300,000 people, according to reports from Havana. The storm caused some injuries but no deaths, the Cuban government news agency said.

The storm spawned squalls that knocked down power lines in Key West, Fla., but no injuries or deaths were reported there either.

Prensa Latina, in a dispatch monitored in Mexico City, said the hurricane caused rivers in suburban Havana to overflow, upturned trees in parks and along avenues, and damaged the Libre Hotel.

Earlier reports said nine-foot waves pummeled Havana’s waterfront. Prensa Latina said rough seas washed over low-lying areas, and 300,000 people were evacuated from their homes throughout the island.

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The Cuban news media reported that Kate hit the central provinces of Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos. Its winds were felt from the northern tip of the island, 90 miles from Key West, to Cienfuegos on the south coast.

Kate also whipped Key West with 105 m.p.h. winds and later moved into the Gulf of Mexico, where it aimed at the U.S. Gulf Coast and was expected to strengthen over the open water.

“Kate could still be with us (for) several days,” National Hurricane Center forecaster Mark Zimmer said.

Submerged Florida Roadways

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“People are thinking about things like Thanksgiving and it’s hard to make them think about a hurricane,” he said. “But this can still be a danger.”

The storm knocked down dozens of power lines, snapped tree limbs and palm fronds and submerged roadways in the Keys.

At 11 p.m., the hurricane was centered over the open waters of the extreme southeast Gulf of Mexico, about 150 miles west-southwest of Key West. It was moving west-northwest at 15 to 20 m.p.h. and was expected to turn gradually northwest, forecasters said.

Highest sustained winds were 105 m.p.h. and gales extended 200 miles to the north of the center and up to 100 miles to the south, the advisory said.

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In Louisiana--struck by a record three hurricanes this year--oil companies caught off guard by Hurricane Juan last month sent many of their 20,000 offshore workers inland by helicopter Tuesday.

“As a precautionary measure, Chevron is evacuating its most remote and outlying drilling and production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico,” spokesman Keith Owen said.

The storm caused flooding in the southwest part of Key West and knocked down power lines, causing scattered outages in the city, said Peter Webber, assistant to the Monroe County administrator.

High winds also toppled a 300-foot radio tower in Sugarloaf Key, Webber said.

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About 500 people were in three shelters in Key West on Tuesday, where most of the 28,000 residents remained home. Tourists and campers were urged to move out Monday. Parts of U.S. 1, the only roadway connecting the 100-mile chain of islands with the mainland, were under water.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the lower and middle sections of the Keys, but Gov. Bob Graham called off a state of emergency that he declared Monday for Florida’s six southernmost counties.

The northern Plains suffered record cold, while parts of the East enjoyed record high temperatures. Part 2, Page 2.


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