A hurricane warning is in effect for Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Cuban Province of Guantanamo, with a tropical storm warning in effect for Jamaica and the Cuban Provinces of Santiago De Cuba and Holguin. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from the Haiti border east to Barahona. These warnings mean that these conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within the next 12 to 24 hours. The center of the storm is tracking near western Haiti this morning, and near or over the extreme eastern portion of Cuba today, and near or over the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands later today or tonight. Some additional strengthening is possible today, followed by a weakening trend starting Saturday. Hurricane force winds extend outwards from the eye up to 15 miles, with tropical storm force winds extending up to 140 miles or 220 km from the center, especially northeast through southeast of the center.
The storm surge from Tomas is expected to raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels in the warning areas along the coast of Haiti, and 3 to 5 feet along the southeastern coast of Cuba in the areas of onshore winds. Along the coast, the surge will be compounded by large, destructive waves. Hurricane force winds are likely occurring over portions of the southwestern peninsula of Haiti at the time of this writing, and are expected in other portions of the warning areas later on in the day. Tomas is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over much of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with the potential for isolated maximum amounts of up to 15 inches of rain. These rains, as with any major rainfall, may cause flash flooding and mud slides over mountainous terrains. Rainfall expectations for Cuba are expected in the 3 to 6 inch range, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Hurricane Tomas is threatening to unleash mudslides from denuded hills and send flash floods down from the mountains into heavily populated areas, where residents are already reeling from January’s earthquake and the cholera outbreak, and living in makeshift tents and shelters, which could be wiped out by heavy rains and hurricane winds. Most people were afraid to evacuate in the fear that what remained of their belongings would be given away or lost, along with their tents. After much negotiating and explaining and the dismantling of rumors, some people eventually heeded the warnings of relief workers and United Nations soldiers and began evacuating endangered coastal areas. Others are asking why they need to move again, and feared someone would steal their things, and others doubted a storm was coming, and have a large measure of distrust for local authorities whom have let them down and have not done much to help in their current plight. Eventually tensions eased and hundreds of camp residents lined up to get into transport trucks to be transported to a safer location at a hospital 2 miles away. This is just what Haiti needs, Tomas, another disaster. To help in the aid and relief efforts, visit our post here for links for donations to help these poor souls. I’m sure Haiti will need more help after Hurricane Tomas passes.