In some southern towns on Jamaica, several crocodiles were caught in rushing floodwaters that carried them out of their homes in mangrove thickets. One big croc took up temporary residence in a family's front yard.
By Wednesday evening the storm's eye had crossed Jamaica and emerged off its northern coast near the town of Port Antonio, meteorologists said, but rains and winds continued to pound the Caribbean island.
It was the first direct hit by the eye of a hurricane on Jamaica since Hurricane Gilbert 24 years ago, and fearful authorities closed the island's international airports and police ordered 48-hour curfews in major towns to keep people off the streets and deter looting. Cruise ships changed their itineraries to avoid the storm, which made landfall five miles east of the capital, Kingston.
Flash floods and mudslides were a threat for this tropical island of roughly 2.7 million, which has a crumbling infrastructure and sprawling shantytowns built on steep embankments and in gullies.
In the hilly community of Kintyre, on the outskirts of Kingston, Sharon Gayle and a few of her neighbors expected to completely lose the town's bridge over the Hope River, which washed away a section of the span just three weeks ago during a heavy downpour. The shell of a concrete home that collapsed into the river and killed two people several years ago still lies toppled on the banks.
"We've gotten cut off here a whole heap of times. But with a big nasty hurricane on the way, I'm really nervous. We're trying not to show it in front of the children though," Gayle said.
The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was expected to pass over eastern Cuba early Thursday, missing the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said tropical storm conditions were possible along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the area, the center said.
The National Weather Service in Mount Holly has warned local emergency managers that Sandy's remnants could generate flooding rains, high winds, and beach-eroding waves when it approaches the mid-Atlantic Coast early next week.