Hurricane Dean likely to threaten Gulf of Mexico
Hurricane Dean, which could strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane over the next two days, pounded the eastern Caribbean islands of Martinique and Dominica as it churned into the Caribbean Sea.
And next week Dean will likely enter the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the region's oil and natural gas facilities, which account for roughly a third of U.S. oil production, the National Hurricane Center predicted.
Overnight Dean strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane, with winds near 100 miles per hour.
The center of Dean was located about 50 miles west-southwest of Martinique, the NHC said in an advisory at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT).
As it crosses the warm waters of the Caribbean, Dean was forecast to strengthen, turning into a Category 3 storm with winds of 111 to 130 mph in about 24 hours, and a Category 4 storm with winds of 131 to 155 mph) in about 48 hours.
On August 21, the NHC expects Dean to strike the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and weaken to a Category 2 storm with winds of 96 to 110 mph) or a Category 3 storm.
After crossing the Yucatan on Tuesday, the NHC projected Dean would enter the Gulf of Mexico where it will likely gain strength again before making landfall.
Most of the major weather models showed Dean will be in the Gulf of Mexico within five days, either directly through the waters between the Yucatan and the western tip of Cuba or after crossing the Yucatan.
The weather models only project about five days. Beyond that, the forecasters say it is too soon to say where the storm, which is just entering the eastern Caribbean, will ultimately make landfall.
The NHC will issue another advisory on Dean at 11 a.m.