Hugo's winds virtually exploded the Caribe Hilton's boarded-up windows, sending shards of glass through the main ballroom where 300 guests had been brought from their rooms. About 20 guests suffered cuts and bruises.
As large chunks of the lobby ceiling blew above their heads, workers led guests single-file past the disintegrating lobby to a mezzanine restaurant, where guests huddled in flickering candlelight for nearly six hours until the gale passed.
'All of the sudden I have a healthy respect for Mother Nature,' New York businessman Rick Pelligrino said.
Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon said Tuesday that he asked Washington for disaster relief.
'Our airport suffered major, major damage,' Colon said on NBC's 'Today' show. 'At this point, we have thousands of homeless that we have in shelters and it appears we will have to have them there for a longer time than we imagined. We need cots ... then we will get into the problem of temporary housing for those people.
'We had to put out the National Guard last night to prevent looting.'
The U.S. naval station at Roosevelt Roads in easternmost Puerto Rico sustained heavy damage and had no power or drinking water Tuesday, according to retired naval officer operating amateur radio.
Hugo is one of the most destructive to hit the Caribbean in a decade. It is the eighth named storm and the fifth to reach hurricane strength during the 1989 Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season that began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
The hurricane was pulling Tropical Storm Iris toward a safer course. Iris was moving north-northwest at 17 mph about 265 miles east of the Leeward Islands, carrying winds of 65 mph -- 9 mph shy of hurricane strength but unlikely to intensify much.
'Hugo is the big brother on the block,' Sheets said. 'We have Iris right there behind it. Hugo is good in that it has kind of moved Iris to the north, so it's not going into the Caribbean.'
In Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA managers monitored the progress of Hugo, ready to move the shuttle Atlantis from its launch pad to the safety of a giant hangar if the storm veers toward central Florida.
The hurricane knocked out telephone service and electricity as it plowed Sunday and Monday across tiny Caribbean vacation islands, and damage reports flowed in.
In Puerto Rico, Civil Defense officials confirmed four dead. The National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo., said it received unconfirmed reports of as many as 25 deaths in Puerto Rico and six families missing after their homes were sweptdown river in the northeast town of Luquillo.
'In Guadeloupe, 12,000 people are left homeless, about 100 injured and five people dead,' said Monique Quesaba, political and economic officer of the U.S. Consulate General in nearby Martinique. She said 70 percent of the roads were 'unusable' because of flooding.
In Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, state-owned television reported six people were confirmed dead by officials in Montserrat. More than 10,000 people were rendered homeless and the island's airport was destroyed, it said. Amateur radio reported 99 percent property damage to the tiny island.
Unconfirmed reports said another was dead in Monteserrat and one in Antigua. From the island of Culebra 20 miles east of Puerto Rico, a ham radio operator reported seeing at least three bodies.
The island Nevis in the Leewards put out a call for volunteers to help clean up in the wake of the storm that demolished the home of the premier and several other government ministers, according to reports from the official Voice of Nevis relayed by amateur radio operators.
The electrical distribution system was wiped out on the tiny island, reports said. Repair work could take the rest of the year.
The report also said 80 percent of the island's homes were destroyed; the hospital infirmary and theater were demolished or sustained severe damage; and the school for the blind, police station and prison were damaged.
One-hundred of the 300 boats in the harbor at Culebra washed ashore, according to amateur radio reports Monday night. Two occupied sailboats were reported missing off the British Virgin Islands, a ham radio operator said.
Two flights arrived Monday in Antigua with supplies. Deputy Prime Minister Lester Bird estimated the hurricane caused $650 million in damage to the Dutch-administered island.
Other islands heavily damaged include St. Kitts, Anguilla, Dominica, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, an amateur radio report said between 50 percent and 75 percent of the homes on St. Croix sustained roof damage. In St. Thomas, an amateur radio operator reported '70 to 80 percent destruction' across the island.