Dean pummels islands, now a Cat. 3
Hurricane Dean has crossed the arc of islands in the Lesser Antilles, pounding the French island of Martinique, as well as Dominica and St. Lucia. Top sustained winds remain at about 100 mph, making Dean a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
UPDATE: 3 p.m. Dean has strengthened today to a Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds over 125 mph.
Forecasters expect little change in Dean's strength or direction for the next 24 hours or so. Light wind shear is keeping a lid on the storm for now, and it has been struggling to develop a well-organized eye and wind structure. But beyond the next day or so, conditions are expected to improve for this storm. It is still predicted to strengthen to Category 4, with top sustained winds of at least 131 mph.
The other issue for forecasters is figuring out where Dean will go. For now, he is cruising briskly westward. But looking farther ahead, forecasters expect he will begin a gradual turn to the northwest. Depending on the timing and angle of that turn, Dean will either run ashore on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula and weaken, or turn northwest through the Yucatan Channel and enter the Gulf of Mexico. Warm waters in the Gulf can be expected to add dangerous fuel to the storm if it gets organized. The consequences for Texas and Louisiana can only be imagined.
Here's an earlier story about Dean and Erin, which is now a huge rainstorm causing more severe flooding in Texas.