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Tropical Storm Claudette Aims for Yucatan
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US: July 10, 2003


MIAMI - Tropical Storm Claudette sped across the western Caribbean Sea toward the Yucatan Peninsula yesterday, prompting storm alerts in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and part of Mexico.


Claudette's top winds were about 65 mph and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said it was likely to hit the Yucatan at just under hurricane strength of 74 mph before crossing into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

Jamaica was buffeted with rainy gusts yesterday and forecasters warned residents to expect high tides, battering waves and up to 6 inches of rain along its southern coast as Claudette skirted the island.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about

235 miles southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, near latitude 16 north, longitude 79.7 west. It was zipping west near 24 mph and was expected to slow down as it turned to the west-northwest by Thursday.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island, alerting residents to expect storm conditions within 24 hours. Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, the other islands in the Cayman group, were under a tropical storm watch, indicating possible storm conditions in 36 hours.

The Mexican government issued a hurricane watch for the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Chetumal to Cabo Catoche, alerting residents to expect hurricane conditions within 36 hours. The same area was also under a tropical storm warning.

Residents of Belize and the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula were cautioned to stay tuned to storm reports.

Haiti shut down sea traffic along its southern coast as a precaution late this week and urged residents there to stay alert in case the storm changed course. There were no reports of damage or injury after the rapidly moving storm passed to the south of Haiti yesterday.

Claudette was the third tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The season got off to a premature start in April when Tropical Storm Ana formed in the Atlantic and quickly fizzled.

Tropical Storm Bill battered Louisiana and Mississippi last month before fading inland.


REUTERS NEWS SERVICE


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