The latest update from the U.S. National Hurricane Center indicated the tropical storm that has been pounding Jamaica with heavy rain has strengthened into a hurricane and is approaching the southeastern coast of the island. The weather center said it has spotted Hurricane Sandy about 30 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica's capital.
As Sandy prepared to make landfall on the Caribbean island Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami noted the change in Sandy's strength in an 11 a.m. EDT update.
Advising that the hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, the NHC also projected Sandy’s path will carry the weather system across the Caribbean island to Cuba, which could pose a possible threat to Florida.
Jamaica has closed its international airports, and cruise ships have changed itineraries in an effort to dodge the potential wrath of Hurricane Sandy, the Associated Press reported.
In addition, local police have ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting as the late-season storm nears Jamaica's south coast.
A hurricane warning is also in effect for certain provinces of Cuba that could be in the path of the storm as it moves northward. The NHC said it spotted Sandy about 195 miles south-southwest of Guantanamo, Cuba.
Forecasters had anticipated Sandy might make an appearance close to the U.S. Naval Base, where pretrial hearings are being held for a suspect in the deadly 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole off Yemen.
Hurricane Sandy is the 10th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, which was expected to see only between five and eight hurricanes, according to Live Science.
The NHC said tropical storm conditions were also possible along the southeast Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.
The current weather projections have Sandy remaining a hurricane as it passes over Jamaica and Cuba, but then weakening into a tropical storm before it reaches the Bahamas.