Hurricane Paloma a Cat. 3 storm; U.S. landfall unlikely

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands — Hurricane Paloma exploded in strength Friday, growing into a hulking Category 3 storm and forcing residents of the Cayman Islands and Cuba to brace for direct hits this weekend.

People rushed to emergency shelters and toward high ground throughout the Cayman Islands, where Paloma's rapid development caught many off guard.

''This storm sneaked up on us,'' said Paul Aiken, a Grand Cayman businessman who was trying to find a high spot to stash his vehicles. "We thought this was a tropical depression, and then suddenly it is a hurricane heading straight for Grand Cayman.'' at