LES CAYES, Haiti – Hurricane Dennis (search) flooded roads in Haiti and churned toward Jamaica late Wednesday, pushing oil prices sharply higher as it became the second storm to threaten petroleum output in the Gulf of Mexico.
A hurricane warning was posted for eastern Cuba including the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay (search), where some 520 terror suspects are detained. Forecasters also warned Dennis was on track for the Alabama-Florida coastline.
Dennis came right behind Tropical Storm Cindy (search), which made landfall late Tuesday in Louisiana and hindered oil production and refining. Traders said that uncertainty over both storms helped to push oil prices to new highs. Crude oil for August delivery settled at $61.28 a barrel and establish a new record on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The previous closing high was $60.54 set June 27.
Packing sustained winds near 80 mph, the fourth storm of the Atlantic season could dump up to 12 inches of rain over mountains in its path, including Jamaica's coffee-producing Blue Mountains, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (search) in Miami.
Last year three hurricanes — Frances, Ivan and Jeanne — tore through the Caribbean with a collective ferocity not seen in many years, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damages.
Inside the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the military prepared audio tapes in at least eight languages warning that a storm was coming and heavy steel shutters would be closed on some cell windows, said Col. Mike Bumgarner.
Military officials had no immediate plans to evacuate troops or detainees at Camp Delta, which is about 150 yards from the ocean but was built to withstand winds up to 90 mph, according to Navy Cmdr. Anne Reese, supervisor of camp maintenance and construction.
Power lines could be knocked down and roofs could be damaged on some older, wooden buildings, Reese said.
"It will be bad, but it's not going to be very destructive," she said.
Bumgarner said the military had a contingency plan to move the prisoners if conditions became serious.
Dennis grew into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday afternoon and threatened to hit Jamaica as a Category 2, the Hurricane Center said.
Haiti, also in the storm's projected path, took the deadliest hit of last year's hurricane season when Jeanne, at the time a tropical storm, triggered flooding and mudslides: 1,500 people were killed, 900 missing and presumed dead and 200,000 left homeless. Torrential rains burst river banks and irrigation canals and unleashed mudslides that destroyed thousands of acres of fertile land in Haiti.
Poverty-stricken Haitians said there was little they could do about the warnings this time.
"It's not only that we don't have money to prepare, we don't have money either to eat. We are willing to stay here and let whatever happens happen," said Martine Louis-Pierre, a 43-year-old mother of three.
At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 280 miles south of the Kingston, Jamaica, moving west-northwest near 13 mph, the Hurricane Center said.
Private forecaster AccuWeather has the storm tracking into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, with landfall Friday or Saturday on the Florida-Alabama border as a strong Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane, with winds from 96 mph to 130 mph.
Radio stations in Haiti and Jamaica warned people to stay away from rivers that could overflow their banks. Some southern roads in Haiti, which is dangerously deforested, already were blocked by flooding Wednesday.
Six small communities in the eastern Jamaica parish of St. Thomas were also cut off by flood waters. Emergency officials urged coastal residents — a large percentage of the population of 2.6 million — to move inland and ordered schools closed until Friday so they could be used as shelters. Kingston's airport was also closed.
Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson abandoned the final day of the annual Caribbean summit in St. Lucia, to rush home. Before leaving, he called on Jamaicans to prepare "to protect those who are infirm, the elderly and the young."