Tropical Storm Elsa lashes Jamaica as it moves toward Cuba


Tropical Storm Elsa approached Jamaica and portions of Cuba on Sunday after lashing the southern coast of Haiti, where its strong wind gusts crushed crops and a tropical storm warning has been discontinued.

In the neighbouring Dominican Republic, the storm was responsible for at least two deaths, the country’s Emergency Operations Center said, after two people were crushed by a collapsed wall in two separate incidents Saturday. Another death was reported in St Lucia after Elsa battered the eastern Caribbean as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday.

Elsa’s intensity had decreased significantly, with 96 kilometre per hour maximum sustained winds.

“Some strengthening is possible today and tonight as Elsa approaches the south-central coast of Cuba,” the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 11 a.m. advisory.

As the centre of the storm neared north-eastern Jamaica Sunday morning before moving to portions of eastern Cuba, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service warned the population that rainfall, including heavy showers and thunderstorms, will continue to spread across most parishes.

“Flash flooding is likely in low-lying and floor prone areas today with 7 to 15 centimetres of rainfall in the forecast,” the Meteorological Service said in an advisory. “Strong winds, reaching to near tropical-storm force, are also expected during at least the next 6-12 hours.”

Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and police force said they were already receiving reports of flooded, impassable roads in Kingston, Portmore and St Thomas parish.

“Members of the public are being reminded to stay indoors,” the disaster office said Elsa is expected to approach central Cuba later in the evening Sunday and early Monday. It will move across Cuba as it heads toward the Florida Straits Monday and pass near the Florida Keys late Monday.

The government of Cuba has issued a tropical storm warning for the provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque and Havana. There is a tropical storm watch for the province of Artemisa.

Cuba’s eastern regions registered heavy rainfall on Sunday morning and early afternoon, according to the meteorological institute Insmet. In Santiago de Cuba province, home to the island’s second most populous city, 11 reservoirs that are used to supply the region with drinking water were filling up and some reached around 80% of capacity at midday Sunday, the Hydraulic Resources Institute said.

The region registered sustained winds between 60 mph to 70 kilometres per hour, with gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour, according to Insmet. In the next 12 to 24 hours, weather forecasters on the the island expect Elsa to maintain its intensity. On Sunday afternoon the storm is expected to travel over or very close to the extreme west of Granma province and later through Las Tunas, Camagüey and the provinces of the central region of Cuba.

As Elsa moved away from Hispaniola, authorities in the Dominican Republic had 15 provinces, mostly concentrated towards the south, on a green alert because of concerns over possible flooding in rivers and other bodies of water. There is a new high-pressure system that will “dominate the meteorological conditions”, said the Dominican Republic’s Emergency Operations Center.

In a late Sunday morning report. Dominican authorities said that 51 homes had been partially affected, and one home had been destroyed as a result of Elsa.
Emergency management officials also advised small and medium-sized vessels to stick to the coasts because of “abnormal” ocean.

A video from local weather anchor Jean Suriel showed waves over 3.5 metres high splashing against the sides of a highway in Santo Domingo Este as cars drove by.

In Haiti, initial reports suggest that the storm appeared to have had less impact than anticipated and did not cause the kind of damage the storm left behind in the eastern Caribbean, where it downed trees, took down power lines and caused roof damage to more than 550 houses in Barbados.

Haiti’s agriculture did take “a serious blow” because of the wind gusts, said Jerry Chandler, the head of the Office of Civil Protection, the emergency response agency.

“There were strong winds overnight,” he said. “So far no serious damage reported.”

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