At least five people have been killed in Haiti in flooding caused by Hurricane Dennis. The storm is a dangerous Category Four hurricane, on a scale of one to five, with winds higher than 200 kilometers an hour. Dennis is now bringing heavy rains and high winds to Cuba, and is expected to hit the U.S. state of Florida on Saturday and Sunday.
Cuban civil defense officials say they evacuated more than 200,000 people from southern coastal areas as Dennis approached. Cuban President Fidel Castro warned Cubans to expect major damage from the storm.
Dennis caused heavy flooding in Jamaica, but spared the island a direct hit. Many areas of Jamaica are without power, and remain cut off from authorities trying to determine what damage the storm caused. Flooding in heavily deforested Haiti swept away roads and bridges, cutting off towns and cities in the southern part of the country.
Hurricane Dennis is one of the strongest storms to form this early in the hurricane season. The Atlantic and Caribbean hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends November 30. Chris Hennon, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says conditions are ripe for storm formation this year.
"Well, the water has been very warm so far this season," he explained. "The atmospheric conditions happen to be very favorable for Dennis to form. So, those two things have conspired to give us this severe hurricane."
In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush has declared a state of emergency, and ordered the evacuation of all non-residents of the Florida keys. Florida was hit by four hurricanes last year, and Dennis is on track to strike the northern part of the state by Sunday.