A powerful hurricane continues strengthen in the Caribbean, where it is bearing down on western Cuba after leaving at least 12 people dead in Central America and Jamaica. Hurricane Michelle's winds have doubled over the past two days and now exceed 215 kilometers an hour. Cuban authorities are scrambling to implement emergency measures.
Saturday, Michelle was upgraded to a Category Four hurricane on a scale of one-to-five, capable of causing catastrophic damage.
U.S. National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Krissy Williams says Michelle's is plodding slowly northward, which has aided the storm's intensification. "When a storm has a chance to sit over warm waters for a while, it does have an opportunity to become more organized and therefore strengthen," she said.
Ms. Williams has said the slow movement makes Michelle especially dangerous, as it will linger longer over any landmass it strikes.
Michelle is centered directly south of Cuba's westernmost tip, and its outer bands are already swirling over vast stretches of the island's western half. Cuban authorities have readied shelters and evacuated thousands of residents and tourists alike from exposed regions.
The hurricane has already carved a path of death and destruction in parts of Central America and Jamaica, prompting tens of thousand of people to flee their homes.
The National Hurricane Center's Krissy Williams says Michelle is projected to veer on a more easterly path in coming days. "Our official track [forecast] does take the storm up through the western tip of Cuba and then more of a northeasterly turn passing right between Cuba and the Florida Straits. Right now with the storm moving so slowly, it is really hard to tell where it will be in 72 hours," she said.
Already, officials in the Florida Keys have ordered an evacuation of all tourists and non-residents.