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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Caribbean Braces for Hurricane Dean

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Hurricane Dean bore down on Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Sunday and threatened to pound Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a rare Category 5 storm.

Residents stocked up on emergency supplies and tourists crowded Caribbean airports as Dean, packing sustained winds of 230 kilometers per hour, headed for Jamaica as a Category 4 storm, the second-highest on the five-step scale.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the Cayman Islands and tropical storm warnings were made for parts of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the eye of the hurricane was about 480 kilometers southeast of Kingston at 2 a.m. and was expected to be near Jamaica or to make landfall Sunday as an exceptionally dangerous storm.

It could become a Category 5 storm after roaring by the Caymans in two days, with winds of over 250 kilometers per hour.

Millions of people braced for the storm in some of the most populous areas of the Caribbean.

"If we don't manage to leave, we'll go back to the hotel and barricade the hotel room and then hope and pray," said Dutch tourist Gideon Tuttezs as he waited in a standby line to fly out of Jamaica's Montego Bay.

Jamaica's government urged people to flee low-lying and landslide-prone areas, buses were marshaled to transport evacuees and police and troops were put on alert.

The latest computer models showed Dean slamming into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula early in the week and then hitting the northern Mexico coast rather than threatening the most critical U.S. offshore oil and gas production areas.

Mexican authorities began evacuations on the Caribbean coast, while U.S. President George W. Bush issued an emergency declaration for Texas to free up federal help and funds.

NASA prepared to bring the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour, which has been on a mission to the international space station, back a day early Tuesday just in case Mission Control in Houston had to close because of the storm.

Dean is the first hurricane of what is expected to be an above-average 2007 Atlantic storm season.