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 » 2006 Forecast  | Saffir-Simpson scale  |  Your stories

Hurricane Emily now Category 3

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A satellite image taken at 8:15 a.m. ET Thursday shows Hurricane Emily in the Caribbean.

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    (CNN) -- Hurricane Emily reached Category 3 strength Thursday evening and is moving toward the central Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center said.

    Jamaica is under a hurricane watch, and tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, most of the northern coast of Venezuela, and the Netherlands Antilles of Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba.

    The warning area also includes Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

    The storm was already being blamed for one death in Grenada, which took a nearly direct hit from the hurricane earlier Thursday.

    Emily's maximum sustained winds were 115 mph. At 8 p.m. ET, its center was about 415 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, moving west-northwest across the Caribbean at nearly 20 mph.

    At Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Emily is capable of causing structural damage and coastal flooding, with storm surges of up to a foot.

    Mobile homes are likely to be destroyed in the face of such winds, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

    Emily is currently away from land. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles, and tropical storm winds extend outward up to 115 miles, the NHC said.

    The five-day forecast path from the National Hurricane Center predicts Emily's eye will pass just south of Jamaica in the early hours of Saturday and make landfall on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula late Sunday or early Monday.

    After crossing the Yucatan, the storm will enter the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, the forecast shows.

    At that point, the Mexican mainland and the far southern coast of Texas are shown as possible targets for Emily.

    However, projections that far ahead can be unreliable because of the erratic nature of hurricane movement.

    Emily is expected to dump 2 to 4 inches of rain across parts of the Netherlands Antilles.

    In parts of Hispaniola, which includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti, 3 to 6 inches are possible. The NHC warns that isolated amounts of 8 inches are also possible and could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

    In addition to leaving at least one person dead in Grenada, the storm has drenched the island, triggered flooding and mudslides, said Odette Campbell of the National Disaster Office there.

    Campbell said one bridge had collapsed, and there were widespread reports of damage to homes and buildings -- some of which were still being repaired after Hurricane Ivan slammed through the region last summer.

    In Trinidad, Emily came ashore as a tropical storm, causing flooding in some areas.

    A spokeswoman for the Trinidad and Tobago National Emergency Management Agency said emergency response teams are rescuing people trapped by high water and are clearing roadways of debris.

    Emily is the second major hurricane of what has been an active 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, with five tropical systems developing in the first six weeks.

    All five have reached at least tropical storm strength, and Dennis, which packed 150 mph winds at one point, was the earliest Category 4 hurricane ever recorded in the Caribbean basin.

    That storm caused extensive damage in Cuba and the northern U.S. Gulf Coast, killing more than three dozen people.

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