Caribbean getting back to normal after Dean skirts by


Mean Dean slammed ashore south of Tulum near Chetumal on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday morning, making history as the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall since Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992.

The storm's path was a blessing of sorts. The area of landfall was sparsely populated, had already been evacuated and it skirted the major resort areas of Cancun and Cozumel further north, although the size of this vicious system from its eye in the center to the tropical bands at its edges mirrored the size of the state of Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Dean weakened considerably as it sprinted inland, dropping to a Category 3 and then 2 within hours of landfall. However, forecasters said that Dean could intensify again over the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche, heading possibly for Veracruz or points within interior Mexico again.

Meanwhile in Jamaica, Air Jamaica resumed operations at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston on Tuesday. Most flights to Montego Bay and Kingston from the U.S. are operating, although departure and arrival times ,have been altered on many flights.

Air Jamaica's flight 034 from Fort Lauderdale arrived in Montego Bay at 5:18 pm Monday, making it the first commercial flight back to Jamaica after Hurricane Dean.

"This was important for us," said Paul Pennicook, Air Jamaica's senior vice president, sales and marketing. "By reinstating flights quickly and offering our Guaranteed Travel Program for our customers, we hope to recuperate very soon from the setbacks caused by Dean."

Passengers holding Air Jamaica tickets to/from Barbados, Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Jamaica, Nassau and St. Lucia issued on or before Aug. 16 for travel through Aug. 24 may change their itineraries without penalty and can extend their travel up to Aug. 31 on the same fare. For information and assistance, call the customer service hotline at (800) 523-5585.

American, Northwest, Spirit Airlines and US Airways all have resumed limited operations into Montego Bay.

Continental Airlines, meanwhile, advised customers holding Mexico reservations to call (800) 525-0280 or check the Web site [] for any service updates. The carrier operated its normal flight schedule to Cancun and Merida on Tuesday and one of its two daily flights to Cozumel. Its flights to Belize City were cancelled due to airport closure.

On-island updates

The Jamaica Tourist Board reported that the roads between Negril and Montego Bay are accessible and the Treassure Beach roads have been cleared but caution is needed due to downed poles.

The Port Authority of Jamaica confirmed that Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas will dock in Montego Bay on Wednesday with 4,500 passengers, although all other cruise lines cancelled calls in Jamaica for the remainder of this week.

In Ocho Rios, the following attractions were slated to reopen for business on Wednesday: Dolphin Cove; Dunn's River Falls; Prospect Plantation; Green Grotto Cave. Chukka Caribbean Adventures reported no damage to its facilities and should reopen by Wednesday as well after canopy tour lines are reinstalled.

Also in Ocho Rios, Jake's suffered some damage and will reopen Oct. 1.

In Negril, Rick's Cafe had slight damage to its bandstand area but is open for business as usual.

The 17-room Tensing Pen Hotel in Negril had minimal damage and will reopen by Aug. 25.

In Montego Bay, the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall will accept new reservations Aug. 23 and Strawberry Hill will reopen on Aug. 24. All golf courses are open or will be by Thursday.

The Jamaica Public Service Co. pledged to restore electricity to most customers by the end of the week. Power was restored Monday to critical services in Kingston and Montego Bay, such as airports, hospitals and water supply facilities.

In Dominica, hotels suffered minimal damage and are said to be operational and open.

Most tourist attractions on the island are closed for cleanup but expect to reopen by Wednesday. Siufriere Sulphur Springs was the only site to suffer structural damage due to flooding and the pools remain closed until further notice.

The island's two airports, Melville Hall and Cane Field, are open and all airlines have resumed normal schedules, according to the Dominica Tourist Office.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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