It looks like Florida has escaped Ike's wrath. The hurricane watch in the Keys is over, according to the National Weather Service.
The former Category 4 hurricane has weakened to a Category 1 tempest and is now "hugging" Cuba, the agency says, just hours after it declared the storm was "battering" the island. Still, 1.8 million Cubans have been moved from the coast and 9,000 tourists evacuated, Agence France-Press reports, and the death toll in Haiti has climbed to 61 following the hurricane. Ike is now about 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Cienfuegos and 215 miles (340 kilometers) southeast of Havana.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean tourist destination Grand Turk is cleaning up after Ike downed power lines and uprooted trees, cars and houses there over the weekend, the Associated Press reports. The newswire says that Carnival Corp. terminal there sustained an estimated $5 million to $10 million in damage.
If Ike changes from a west to a northwest course as expected later, the hurricane will reach the Gulf of Mexico by tomorrow night, the weather center says. While its winds have decreased to 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour), forecasters predict Ike will pick up strength again as it moves over water. We expain the hows and whys of hurricanes in a special report.
(Image of Ike's path from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration)