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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2007
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Category 5 Felix swirls toward Central America

By Margaret Wever
Associated Press Writer

ORANJESTAD, Aruba — Hurricane Felix strengthened into a dangerous Category 5 storm Sunday and churned its way into the open waters of the Caribbean Sea after toppling trees and flooding some homes on a cluster of Dutch islands.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Felix was packing maximum sustained winds of 165 mph as it plowed westward toward Central America, where it was expected to skirt Honduras’ coastline Tuesday before slamming into Belize on Wednesday as a hurricane capable of massive destruction.

On Sunday, Felix lashed Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire with rains and winds, causing scattered power outages and forcing thousands of tourists to take refuge in hotels. But residents expressed relief it did far less damage than feared as the storm’s outer bands just grazed the tiny islands.

“Thankfully we didn’t get a very bad storm. My dog slept peacefully through the night,” said Bonaire medical administrator Siomara Albertus, who waited out the storm in her home.

The storm forced tens of thousands of tourists and residents on the three islands to remain in their homes and hotels, stocked with water, flashlights and emergency provisions.

In Curacao, about a dozen homes in a low-lying area were flooded. In Aruba, there was little visible damage, although at least one catamaran snapped off its mooring and a house was damaged by a downed tree. A northern settlement had a temporary power outage.

Many Bonaire residents had prepared for the worst, installing storm shutters and hauling their boats ashore, but the storm’s winds left little damage.

Felix became the second Atlantic hurricane of the season on Saturday evening, following Hurricane Dean, which left at least 20 dead in the Caribbean and carved out a destructive swath that stretched from St. Lucia to Mexico.

At 10 p.m. CDT, the storm was centered about 345 miles southeast of Jamaica and was moving west at about 21 mph, the hurricane center said.

On Saturday, Felix brought heavy rains and strong winds to Grenada as a tropical storm, ripping roofs off at least two homes and destroying a popular concert venue.

No injuries were reported.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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