Tropical Storm Elsa hits Cuba en route to Florida Keys

Tropical Storm Elsa’s center appeared to leave Cuba near Havana late Monday, heading for Florida, though the skewed weather system was expected to dump heavy rainfall over the Caribbean’s largest island in its wake.

At 9 a.m., the storm’s center was 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the capital, which was still dealing with calm weather, Cuba’s Meteorology Institute said, as it slowly moved the center of the country from south to north. traversed at a speed of 20 km/h. hour.

Sustained winds peaked near 85 kph (50 mph) as storm surges hit Cuba’s south coast and are also expected to occur on the north coast, the institute said, causing minor flooding in the capital in lower coastal areas such as along the Atlantic Ocean. famous Malecon coastal road.

“The rain is coming behind downtown, so just because it’s moving out to sea along the north coast between Havana and Mayabeque … doesn’t mean the rain is over,” Cuba’s best-known meteorologist Jose Rubiera said on state television.

More than 100,000 people in Cuba have been evacuated from flood-prone areas or unsafe homes in the storm’s potential path, most going to homes of family and friends, but thousands also to government shelters, state media reported.

While such preparedness has typically enabled Cuba to avoid the kind of storm casualties seen elsewhere, it comes amid Cuba’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic, raising fears that evacuations could spread infections. stir up.

Elsa has already caused at least three direct deaths and some damage to infrastructure and agriculture on Caribbean islands southeast of Cuba, such as St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic.

It comes as the tourism-dependent archipelago is already struggling with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and bracing for an overactive hurricane season.

Cuban meteorologists said Elsa’s rains could be positive for agriculture and strengthen water reservoirs, as long as they weren’t too intense.

Rainfall of 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm) with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches (38 cm) was forecast Monday evening in parts of Cuba and is expected to result in “significant flash flooding and mudslides,” the Miami-based US said. This is reported by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

A tropical storm watch and storm surge watch had been established for much of Florida’s west coast, the NHC said, with Elsa expected to gain strength at sea as it passed near the Florida Keys early Tuesday and settled near or below. moved over parts of the west Florida coast on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The storm’s approach forced Florida officials to demolish the remaining portion of an apartment building that collapsed 11 days ago, killing at least 24 people and more than 120 missing.

But revised forecasts showing Elsa would follow to make landfall north of Miami-Dade sparked renewed optimism that the search for survivors would continue uninterrupted.

The NHC said amounts of 3 inches to 5 inches (8 to 13 cm) with localized maximum totals up to 8 inches (20 cm) were expected through Wednesday in the Keys and western parts of Florida, which could result in significant flooding and urban flooding. , along with minor to isolated moderate river flooding.

A few tornadoes were possible in South Florida Monday night and the Florida peninsula Tuesday, the agency added.

“All Florida residents should prepare for the possibility of heavy rains, flooding and potential power outages,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter.

In Seminole, Florida, residents filled sandbags and placed them outside their homes to prevent flooding.

“If we have a lot of water… and I wait until later to get sandbags, there are none and then I have a wet bedroom,” said Wendy Schultz, adding that she would keep them for the rest of the season anyway. “because, you know, it’s Florida.”

Authorities and locals in some Caribbean island states, including Cuba, had already started on Monday repairing the damage caused by Elsa, including removing fallen trees and other debris and restoring power.

(REUTERS)

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