St. GEORGE'S, Grenada – Grenadian police ordered people off the streets and businesses closed Wednesday as Tropical Storm Emily (search) threatened an island still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ivan last year.
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell (search) sought to reassure citizens the government would not be caught off-guard — as it was when Ivan killed 39 people and left a wasteland of ruined buildings in September.
Grenadians rushed home under heavy rain, forming traffic jams in the capital of St. George's. Islanders had flocked to the stores Tuesday, snapping up canned food, water and batteries. The rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when islanders took few precautions.
Strong winds tore the roofs off two homes and uprooted a few trees in southern Barbados (search), residents said.
BP oil company evacuated nonessential staff from its 14 offshore oil platforms in Trinidad, leaving 11 employees to operate two platforms to fulfill its contractual obligations to provide gas for the country, the company said.
At 5 p.m. EDT, the center of Emily was about 125 miles south of Barbados and about 135 miles southeast of Grenada. The storm had sustained winds of 60 mph and was heading west at about 18 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
In Grenada, the government ordered people off the streets and opened shelters across the island.
The struggle to recover from Ivan has prevented Grenada from thoroughly preparing for this year's hurricane season. Amid a shortage of construction supplies, many islanders still have no roofs and some children are still taught under tarps. Ivan's destruction left few buildings viable as shelters.
In St. Vincent, people placed boards over window and businesses were supposed to close at noon, though some remained open amid a light drizzle and increasingly dark skies.
"We've got to be prepared and that's what we're doing," said Cordell Roberts, 39, a fisherman who was helping to pull boats from the water in the capital, Kingstown. "People are very conscious about the weather. It's not like the old days when we took it for granted."
St. Lucians also lined up at stores and the government ordered businesses to close in the afternoon. The island's two main airports remained opened, though British Airways canceled its flights from Hewanorra International Airport in the south.
Shelters opened in Tobago, while businesses and the airport closed. The government ordered residents to go home in the more southern island of Trinidad, causing traffic jams out of the capital of Port-of-Spain.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said authorities were evacuating some residents from low-lying areas, prone to mudslides and floods.
Emily trails Hurricane Dennis, which destroyed crops and killed at least 25 people in Haiti and 16 in Cuba and Haiti last week, according to authorities in the two countries.