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Sandy now a Category 2 storm

Sandy now a Category 2 storm Waves, brought by Hurricane Sandy, crash on a house in the Caribbean Terrace neighborhood in eastern Kingston, Jamaica.

Thu, October 25, 2012 - 9:35 AM

HOLGUIN, Cuba (AP) — Hurricane Sandy rumbled across mountainous eastern Cuba today as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rains and blistering winds that ripped the roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops, but caused no known fatalities on the island.

Even as it pummeled Cuba's rural eastern half, Sandy refused to lose intensity as storms normally do when they cross over land, raising fears that small mountain villages still unheard from might not have been ready for its wrath.

"It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure," said Jose Rubiera, the island's chief meteorologist.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sandy emerged off Cuba's northeast coast around dawn and was moving north at 18 mph (30 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). It was expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the Bahamas.

Santiago, Cuba's second largest city near the eastern tip of the island, was spared the worst of the storm, which slammed into the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.

Some 5,000 tourists at beach resorts in Holguin were evacuated ahead of the storm, along with 10,200 residents, according to Cuban media. Another 3,000 people in low lying areas of Las Tunas were moved away before Sandy arrived.

State-run media said there was damage to coffee and tomato crops in Granma province but not as bad as had been feared.

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