Hurricane Ike Hobbles Turks & Caicos
Damage reports are still coming in, but one thing is clear: Hurricane Ike has been a major disaster for the islands of the Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean. The Associated Press has reported that 80 percent of the homes on Grand Turk have been damaged or destroyed, while the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency reports that "Grand Turk suffered approximately 85 percent damage to housing and infrastructure of which 50 percent is major." Premier Michael Misick told the AP that "people who didn't take refuge in shelters were cowering in closets and under stairwells, 'just holding on for life.'"
Carnival Cruise lines, which not only regularly sails to Grand Turk but operates a large cruise terminal there, has canceled all visits to the island in the immediate future, posting alternative itineraries on its Web site. The terminal itself has apparently received damage to the tune of $5 to $10 million (500 palm trees planted just six months ago were uprooted, according to Carnival) and it's hard to imagine that cruises won't be diverted for weeks to come.
On the plus side, in Providenciales, home to many of the islands' best-known resorts, "there was flooding, roof damage and downed power lines," according to tourism chairman Wayne Garland, but no major damage to the hotels or resorts. The airport has apparently reopened and most power restored.
American Airlines, which is a major carrier of U.S. tourists to the islands, is offering travelers the opportunity to reschedule flights for later in the week, but it goes without saying that you should check with your hotel before making any rescheduling plans.
Clearly, this is a quickly-changing situation, something that should be borne in mind by potential travelers to the Gulf Coast. Ike is now poised to enter the warm waters of the Gulf, where restrengthening -- after a weakening during landfall -- is likely. Anyone planning a weekend visit to the Houston area, the New Orleans area, indeed any areas that sit on or near the Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi Gulf Coasts, should closely monitor updates on Ike that are regularly issued by the National Hurricane Center.
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