Hurricane Dean is expected to grow into a ferocious Category 5 storm as it passes Jamaica and nears Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the oil and gas rigs of the Gulf of Mexico after it smashed into several Caribbean islands, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Saturday.

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Hurricane Dean barreled across the eastern Caribbean Saturday and took aim at Hispaniola, Jamaica and Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula, with forecasters saying it could turn into a monster Category 5 storm within 72 hours.

This NOAA satellite image taken Saturday, August 18, 2007 at 00:15 a.m. EDT shows a big swirl of clouds in the eastern Caribbean Sea associated with intensifying Hurricane Dean.  The storm has strengthened into a Category 4 storm and is expected to reach Category 5 status later Saturday.  Winds hit 150 mph as it headed on a collision course with Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where it is forecast to become a Category 5 storm. (AP Photo/NOAA)

With sustained winds near 150 mph, Dean left behind floods, debris and at least three deaths on the islands of St. Lucia, Martinique and Dominica on Friday.
The first hurricane of the Atlantic season, the Category 4 Dean was expected to gain power as it moves across the warm waters of the Caribbean through the weekend. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said its winds could surpass 155 mph as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico on Monday.
The immediate danger, however, comes Saturday as the storm passes south of Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti — both particularly prone to devastating floods.

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