* Jamaica, Cuba and Bahamas in Sandy's path
* Curfew in parts of Jamaica
* Sandy could pose risk to U.S. Northeast
(Adds landfall in Jamaica, curfew details)
By Horace Helps
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 24 Hurricane Sandy made
landfall on the southeast coast of Jamaica on Wednesday
afternoon, posing a major flood risk to low-lying areas near the
capital Kingston, hurricane forecasters said.
Schools and businesses closed and emergency authorities
moved residents in low-lying, flood-prone areas into shelters as
steady rain and winds pounded the Caribbean island.
There was little activity on the streets of Kingston as
residents heeded the call by authorities to stay home. Prime
Minister Portia Simpson Miller cut short a 5-day trip to Canada
to get home before the storm.
"We must all be careful. Those who can move into shelters
should do so now," she said.
Several roads were flooded and blocked by fallen trees, and
mudslides were reported near villages on the outskirts of
Kingston. The government closed the island's two international
airports in Kingston and Montego Bay on Tuesday night.
"They will remain closed until further notice," airports
spokesman John McFarlane said in a statement.
Police imposed curfews on 80 communities across Jamaica as a
deterrent to looting during the passage of the storm.
Looters shot and wounded a senior police officer on patrol
in one volatile community. Police confirmed that Senior
Superintendent of Police Terrence Bent, 44, was shot on
Wednesday afternoon as he led a group of policemen through an
section of West Kingston called Craig Town.
Hurricane Sandy was centered about 5 miles (8 kilometers)
east of Kingston and was moving north at 14 mph (22 kph) with
top sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), the U.S. National
Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) advisory.
WEAK CATEGORY ONE STORM
A hurricane warning was in effect for both Jamaica and Cuba,
although forecasters said Sandy is expected to be a weak
Category One storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of
hurricane intensity, with winds topping out at 85 mph (137 kph).
Sandy's expected path will not take it into the Gulf of
Mexico, where U.S. oil and gas operations are clustered.
Computer models showed Sandy was on a projected path that
would cut across the middle of Jamaica, with the eye passing
close to Kingston and the popular north coast resort of Ocho
Rios, before moving over eastern Cuba and losing hurricane
strength as it reaches the Bahamas.
A hurricane watch was also issued on Wednesday for central
and northwestern Bahamas, and a tropical storm watch was in
place for south Florida, though computer models show the center
of Sandy is expected to pass well to the east of the Florida
"It is a big storm and it's going to grow in size after it
leaves Cuba," said Michael Brennan, a hurricane forecaster at
the NHC in Miami.
He said the storm's wind field was likely to extend 200
miles (322 km) west from the center as it passed over the
Bahamas, causing "very high surf and dangerous conditions all
the way up the east coast into the Carolinas."
Forecasters are not sure where it would go after that, with
some computer models showing it could pose a risk to the U.S.
Northeast early next week.
"It's too early to tell but there are some signs that have
it hooking back towards the mainland as a wintertime
'nor-easter,' said Brennan, referring to the powerful,
late-season storms that can form in the north Atlantic at this
time of year.
Sandy is expected to dump as much as 6 to 12 inches (15 to
30 cm) of rain across parts of Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican
Republic and eastern Cuba, with as much as 20 inches (50 cm)
possible in some places, forecasters said.
"These rains may produce life-threatening flash floods and
mudslides ... especially in areas of mountainous terrain," the
hurricane center warned.
Storm surge could also raise water levels on Jamaica's south
and east coasts by 1 to 3 feet (30.5 to 91 cm) above normal tide
levels, it added, and as much as 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.4 metres)
above normal in the Bahamas on Friday.
(Writing by David Adams; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Vicki