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Andrew heads through Bahamas toward Miami

By JANE SUTTON

MIAMI -- Hurricane Andrew strafed the northeastern Bahamas Sunday and more than 1 million South Florida residents were ordered to evacuate before the storm's 140 mph winds crossed into the Miami area early Monday.

Maurice Tynes, national disaster coordinator for the Bahamas, said from Nassau that one person was killed on northern Eleuthera Island but it had not been determined whether the death was related to the storm.

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'That is the only report we have heard of anyone who has died,' Tynes said.

He said several homes were damaged in the northern part of Eleuthera.

'It seems to have taken the heaviest blow,' he said.

Otherwise, he said, 'There's a lot of the usual trees down, power lines down, that type of damage.'

On New Providence, the damage was less than expected and all of the major hotels were in good shape, sustaining little damage.

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'All of the islands have reported OK, except for the barrier islands and Bimini, where of course we will have to wait until the hurricane passes,' he said.

Newly elected Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham earlier addressed his nation in a radio broadcast, urging Bahamians to take cover, be vigilant and 'pray that Almighty God will spare us.'

'Take this hurricane seriously,' Ingraham said. 'It is a very powerful and dangerous hurricane.'

Andrew moved west through the Bahamas with maximum winds of 150 mph in a small area near its center, but lost some strength by 11 p.m. EDT, when its maximum winds had dropped to 140 mph.

In the Bahamas, 58 schools, churches and government buildings were opened for shelters, and the Bahamas' emergency coordinator issued reassurances that visitors were safe.

A wind gust to 120 mph was reported as the center passed over the northern end of Eleuthera Island, and sustained winds of 85 mph with gusts to 105 mph were reported at Nassau.

Hurricane warnings were raised for the heavily populated islands of Eleuthera, New Providence, Andros, Bimini, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Cat Island, San Salvador and Exuma.

Storm surge flooding of 10 to 14 feet above normal tides were possible for some locations in the northwest Bahamas, with up to 18 feet possible for the northwest side of Eleuthera Island, the weather service said.

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Andrew's maximum sustained winds were 150 mph Sunday afternoon, making it a Category 4 storm capable of causing 'extreme damage.' By 8 p.m. the winds had diminished slightly to 145 mph, and by 11 p.m. they had fallen to 140 mph.

An increase to 155 mph would have put it into the Category 5 or 'catastrophic' range. Only two Category 5 hurricanes have ever hit the United States -- the 1935 hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille, which ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi in 1969.

Andrew's winds already surpassed those of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into South Carolina with 135 mph winds in 1989, causing $7 billion worth of damage.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the central and northwest Bahamas, the Florida east coast from Vero Beach southward through the Florida Keys, the Florida west coast south of Venice, and for Lake Okeechobee.

A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning were in effect for the Florida east coast from Vero Beach northward to Titusville and on the Florida west coast north of Venice to Bayport.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the center of Andrew was located near latitude 25.4 north and longitude 78.1 west, or about 135 miles east of Miami.

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'The eye of the hurricane is expected to cross the Miami area somewhere around 7 to 8 a.m.,' said Bob Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center.

He said the outer bands of the hurricane would be coming into South Florida around 2 to 3 a.m.

Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 105 miles.

Storm surges of 7 to 10 feet above normal tides were possible for the Florida east coast and Keys near to where the center makes landfall in southeast Florida, with possible heights of 9 to 13 feet in Biscayne Bay, the hurricane center said.

Storm surges of 7 to 11 feet were possible on the Florida west coast near and to the south of the center after the passage of the hurricane. Rainfall amounts of 5 to 8 inches were expected along the path of the hurricane.

The National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, Mo., issued a tornado watch for much of central and south Florida from 11 p. m. EDT Sunday to 11 a.m. Monday.NEWLN: more more

Sheets said Andrew's eye was 'wobbling,' and would probably come ashore anywhere from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.

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'That 10 or 15 miles could make a world of differnce,' Sheets said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for more than 1 million coastal residents in Broward, Dade and Monroe counties -- including the barrier islands of Miami Beach and Key Biscayne, neighborhoods as far inland as U.S. 1 in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and all of the Florida Keys.

Under Florida law, it is a second-degree misdemeanor to ignore an evacuation order. But Bob Nave, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, said it was unlikley police would have time to make arrests.

'If they are resistant to evacuation, we'll get the name of a next of kin,' Nave said.

Humana Hospital-Biscayne in Aventura, 1 miles from the ocean, evacuated its 107 patients Sunday, moving most of them inland to Humana Hospital-Pembroke Pines.

'Knock on wood, it's going very well and I'm very proud of everyone here,' said administrator Campbell Epes.

Throughout Miami, cars were lined up five and six deep waiting to buy gas, automatic teller machines ran out of cash, and grocery store parking lots were jammed.

Larry's Chevron on Miami Beach sold 4,000 gallons of gasoline in a few hours, as much as it normally sells in a few days. When the pumps ran dry, employees began battening down.

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'We're trying to chain stuff down, board stuff up,' said station employee Nat Spangler.

The Red Cross opened 80 shelters in schools and churches in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas and the Upper Keys.

'We're encouraging people that if they have relatives or friends they could live with, that would be best,' said Red Cross Spokeswoman Sharon Akinde. 'A shelter is not a glamorous place to be. It's not exactly the Holiday Inn.'

In the upper Florida Keys, drawbridges were locked in the down position and tolls were waived to speed the evacuation, but traffic was backed up as much as 15 miles on the Overseas Highway through the northern islands.

Gov. Lawton Chiles declared a state of emergency Sunday, putting the Florida National Guard on alert.

Under a mutual assistance agreement, the North Carolina National Guard sent a plane to move patients from a hospital in the Florida Keys to one in Central Florida.

Police began stopping people from entering the evacuation area, and Southern Bell urged people to restrict their calls to emergencies only.

School was canceled and courts were closed for Monday for the counties under evacuation orders, and the Postal Service canceled mail delivery until further notice.

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Florida Power & Light Co. put its nuclear power plants in Homestead and St. Lucie into a 'hot shutdown,' though that was not expected to affect power supplies.

Cruise ships sailing out of the Port of Miami altered their routes, sailing southeast of the Bahamas to avoid the storm. Cargo ships were ordered to clear out of the port, and the Coast Guard sent most of its fleet out to weather the storm at sea.

Miami International Airport stopped issuing gates for departure at 8 p.m. and set closing at 9:30 p.m. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport wrapped up its flight schedule starting at 6 p.m.

Hundreds of stranded passengers, mainly cruise ship patrons and foreign visitors were stranded at the Miami airport. Airport officials allowed them to ride out the storm at the airport and provided them with food and a place to sleep.

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