Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Hurricane Ike slammed into the Turks and Caicos on Saturday as a ferocious Category 4 storm, raking the low-lying island chain with shrieking winds as people hunkered down at home or in emergency shelters.
As the massive gray wall of clouds descended on the islands, people in the city of Providenciales covered windows with plywood and boats were hauled ashore or secured with multiple anchors.
"I am very, very nervous," said John Moore, a fishing boat captain, as he tied down his 61-foot vessel in a Providenciales cove. "It looks like it might go right over us."
The outer-bands of the storm brought fierce, palm-bending winds and a scattering of rain. Still, people lingered in the darkened streets or outside a couple of convenience stores that stayed open for last-minute shoppers. People entered a makeshift shelter in a vocational school in the Five Cays neighborhood, a poor area that experienced heavy flooding during Hanna.
"Once we get the fury of this thing, believe me, you will see this open up," said Colin Bascomb, the school's principal.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that Ike's eye was "near or over the Turks and Caicos" late Saturday night. The center's Web site showed hurricane force winds battering the island. Ike was moving west-southwest about 15 mph with winds near 135 mph. Its path would take it by the southeastern Bahamas early today and near eastern Cuba tonight or early Monday.
Ike appeared headed for the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal set up a task force to prepare for the possibility of more havoc, while Floridians stocked up on batteries, water and gas cans.
Desiree Adams, along with 11 members of her family, could hear the storm's powerful winds howling through the storm shutters of her Grand Turk home as Ike hit.
Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks and Caicos, is about six miles long, and home to about 3,000 people. Several hundred evacuated before the storm. It has little natural protection from the sea and expected storm surge, but Adams said she and her family were not afraid.
"We live by faith here," she said. "We believe in Jesus Christ so a lot of praying is going forth. There is going to be damage, no doubt, to infrastructure but that we can replace over time."
The approach of the hurricane also raised an alarm in Haiti, where officials issued a tropical storm warning and feared it could worsen deadly flooding. And Cuba, still recovering from a devastating hit by Category 4 Hurricane Gustav last month, was directly in Ike's projected path.
Forecasters said Ike was expected to reach the northern coast of eastern Cuba tonight or early Monday. Cuba's government warned people to be ready to take emergency action.