Barbados East Caribbean

Caribbean Brace for Hurricane Ivan

Mon Sep 6, 6:02 PM ET Add Science

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (Reuters) - Stores and schools closed, radio stations broadcast warnings and Barbadians readied their homes as Hurricane Ivan charged across the Atlantic on Monday toward Barbados and the Caribbean's eastern islands.

Storm warnings for the ninth cyclone of the Atlantic hurricane season stretched from the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the south to the French territory of Martinique on the north, including Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The fast-moving storm was expected to pass just south of Barbados on Tuesday morning.

"Right now, I'm looking out onto the sea, and there's this hot, eerie feeling," said Barbados resident Lisa Ashby. "Neighbors are looking out for one another, the elderly, the handicapped. Everybody's hoping for the best."

Ivan lost some punch as it approached the Windward Island chain. Its sustained winds dropped from 125 mph to 105 mph, but forecasters said it could re-intensify.

In Barbados, a former British colony of about 278,000 people, radio and television announcers reminded Barbadians of hurricane shelters located in their area and urged residents to stock up on candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, canned foods and bottled water.

Businesses sent staff home by midday on Monday, and American Airlines canceled flights to and from Barbados for Tuesday.

Nonessential workers were evacuated from some oil and gas rigs off Trinidad and Tobago, which expected tropical storm-force winds up to 73 mph.

At 5 p.m. EDT east-southeast of Barbados at latitude 11.6 north and longitude 55.3 west, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (news - web sites) said. It was racing to the west-northwest at around 22 mph.

The hurricane center's long-range forecast, which has a large margin of error, put the storm near Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, on Thursday.

Forecasters said Ivan was the strongest cyclone to develop at such a low latitude in recorded Atlantic hurricane history.

Ivan formed as Hurricane Frances was battering Florida. Frances was the second hurricane to strike the state in three weeks, following Hurricane Charley on Aug. 13.