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Hurricane Lili batters Caymans

Islands reel under wind, rain

Near Kiln, Mississippi, locals are still burning debris and drying carpets after Tropical Storm Isidore. They are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Lili.
Near Kiln, Mississippi, locals are still burning debris and drying carpets after Tropical Storm Isidore. They are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Lili.

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Hurricane Lili
At 11 p.m. EDT Monday
Latitude: 20.7 degrees north
Longitude: 81.5 degrees west Position: About 110 miles southeast of the Isle of Youth, Cuba
Top sustained winds: Near 80 mph

Next advisory:  5 a.m. EDT Tuesday

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Lili lashed the Caribbean islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac Monday, and a top forecaster worried it might erupt into a major force in the Gulf of Mexico before hitting U.S. shores.

The fourth hurricane of the 2002 hurricane season could threaten the Louisiana or upper Texas coast by early Thursday, said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Landfall is likely to be between Galveston, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama -- possibly around Lake Charles, Louisiana, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. That would put it near where Tropical Storm Isidore made landfall a week ago.

Mayfield said it is too early to tell where Lili might come ashore in the United States.

Lili was upgraded Monday from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane and its maximum sustained winds have strengthened to 80 mph.

At 11 p.m. ET, Lili was about 110 miles southeast of Cuba's Isle of Youth, moving west-northwest at 10 mph, and was producing heavy rain across Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and eastern Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"These rains could cause life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides," a hurricane center advisory said.

The Associated Press reports that flooding and mudslides killed four people Sunday in Jamaica. Four others were killed last Tuesday on the island of St. Vincent.

A ham radio operator on Cayman Brac told the NHC that the storm had downed trees and powerlines and damaged the roofs of several homes on the tiny island.

Mayfield said Lili should reach western Cuba early Tuesday before heading north to the Gulf of Mexico. He said the first concern in the Gulf would be for the safety of people working on oil-drilling platforms.

Potentially more dangerous

Lili is potentially more dangerous than Isidore, he said.

"Isidore actually was a very powerful Category 3 hurricane, but then it moved over the Yucatan Channel and the Yucatan Peninsula and it actually sat over land for several days," Mayfield told CNN.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Category 1:
Winds 74-95 mph (119-153 km/hr)

Category 2:
Winds 96-110 mph (154-177 km/hr)

Category 3:
Winds 111-130 mph (178-209 km/hr)

Category 4:
Winds 131-155 mph (210-249 km/hr)

Category 5:
Winds greater than 155 mph (249 km/hr)

Source: National Hurricane Center

"That really allowed it to weaken, and it never did become back to a hurricane once it moved back out of the Gulf of Mexico."

But Lili, he said, "is going to just skirt the western tip of Cuba. It's not mountainous there. It's relatively flat. It's not very wide -- so I don't really see any real impact there. That's why we're very concerned that it could go ahead and strengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico."

Earlier, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center anticipated Lili could be a Category 2 hurricane (winds of 96-110 mph) in the north-central Gulf by late Thursday or Friday.

A hurricane warning remained in effect for the Cayman Islands and the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Ciudad de la Habana, La Habana, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth. A tropical storm warning covered the rest of Cuba.

Jamaica and the southwestern peninsula of Haiti were deluged over the weekend with heavy rain, as they were just a week ago when Hurricane Isidore rammed through just to the south of Lili's current track.

Kyle weakens off Bermuda

Meanwhile, the remnants of Tropical Storm Kyle have reformed as a tropical depression about 350 miles south-southwest of Bermuda -- about 220 miles south of its previous position.

The storm's maximum sustained winds have dropped to 35 mph and it is nearly stationary. Forecasters do not expect any significant change in strength or movement.

A tropical storm watch remains in effect for Bermuda.

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