Hurricane Tomas passed between Cuba and Haiti, unleashing floods that killed at least three people, as it moved northeast on a path taking it to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos later today.
The storm, with winds of 85 mph (137 kph), was 90 miles southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba, and 140 miles west-northwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, heading northeast at 12 mph. It is a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and may strengthen, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 11 am. Eastern time.
“With Haiti being on the east side of the storm, that will be where the strongest winds and heaviest rain are located,” said Travis Hartman, energy weather manager and meteorologist for MDA Federal Inc.’s EarthSat Energy Weather in Rockville, Maryland.
At least three deaths in Haiti were blamed on flooding from Tomas, according to Agence France-Presse.
Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cuba’s Guantanamo province are under a hurricane warning, while the central Bahamas and the Santiago de Cuba and Holguin provinces of Cuba are under a tropical storm warning, the center said.
Hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph extend 15 miles from the storm’s core, while tropical storm force winds of at least 39 mph stretch 140 miles, according to the center.
AccuWeather Inc. forecasts that some locations in Haiti will be pounded by as much as 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain. More than 1 million people have lived in camps across the island nation since an earthquake in January that killed 300,000 people.
A cholera outbreak has infected more than 5,000 people and killed more than 400, said Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The amount of rainfall depends on the strength and location of the storm’s area of deep tropical moisture, or inflow channel, according to Dan Kottlowski, an expert senior forecaster with AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania.
“Given the predicted track and strength of Tomas, the inflow channel is expected to target Haiti through tonight before shifting eastward over the Dominican Republic Saturday,” he said.
Three inches of rain may fall on Jamaica, and 6 inches over eastern Cuba, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands, the hurricane center said. The Dominican Republic could receive as much as 15 inches.
The American Refugee Committee, which has an emergency response team in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, said people were “very, very reluctant” to evacuate camps where they have been living since the quake. One camp, Corail, which housed 7,000 people, is at risk because it was built on a desert flood plain north of the city.
The International Organization for Migration said today that 4,000 Haitians remained in the Corail camp to protect their few belongings, putting them at risk for cholera.
Tomas is the 19th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. This year is the third-most active on record, tied with 1995 and 1887, according to Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the hurricane center. In 2005, a record 28 storms formed in the Atlantic.
Tomas swept through the Windward Islands as a hurricane Oct. 29 to Oct. 31, damaging 500 homes in Barbados and 1,200 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and wiping out Saint Lucia’s banana crop, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency said Nov. 3 in a situation report.
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