Hurricane Elsa hit the islands of Saint Lucia and Barbados on Friday, ripping roofs, chopping down trees and power lines, and blocking roads as it swept through the eastern Caribbean with winds of 75 mph and heavy rains.
“We have been affected considerably,” said Wilfred Abrahams, Minister of the Interior, Information and Public Affairs of Barbados, of the passage of the first hurricane of the Atlantic season 2021. “The material damage is widespread . There are roofs that have come off, roofs that have collapsed, houses that have collapsed. There are downed power lines across Barbados, live power lines, downed trees, some roads are impassable. “
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said based on initial assessments around 177 roofs had been damaged and at least seven houses had collapsed on the island of 287,025.
Damage was also reported in Saint Lucia. After the green light shortly before 5 p.m., the director of the National Emergency Management Organization, Dorine Gustave, said crews would be clearing the roads of fallen trees and fallen power lines.
“We ask the Saint Lucians to please stay at home and allow the teams to go out there and do their jobs,” she said.
As Elsa moved away from the Windward Islands and crossed the Eastern Caribbean Sea, she was on track to cross southwest and western Haiti and southern Dominican Republic as a hurricane. Category 1. As of the 5 p.m. update, a hurricane warning was in effect for the southern part of Haiti, from Port-au-Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic and the southern coast of Haiti. the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti. .
The island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share, is expected to experience winds of up to 80 mph. Parts of the island will see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with some isolated areas up to 15 inches. The south coast of Hispaniola is also expected to experience between 2 and 4 feet of storm surge. Haitian officials on Friday asked people living in vulnerable areas to voluntarily evacuate before the storm.
Impending bad weather is likely to trigger floods and mudslides in both countries.
In the case of Haiti, Elsa adds to an already very complex situation that includes a socio-political crisis, a deadly resurgence of COVID-19, violence by armed gangs and population displacement.
Since June 1, more than 16,000 Haitians from poor working-class neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince have been forced to flee their homes due to armed conflict between rival gangs.
The ongoing violence is having serious consequences and spillover effects on the economy and in terms of humanitarian access to the southern peninsula – the planned route for Elsa.
“We keep our fingers crossed that it loses its strength and does not cause much damage,” said Bruno Lemarquis, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Haiti. “Haiti doesn’t need that these days.
Lemarquis said Haiti’s national emergency and disaster system has been activated under the leadership of the Director General of the Civil Protection Office and works closely with the United Nations system.
Meanwhile, the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, from Cabo Engaño to the border with Haiti, is under tropical storm warning. In Cuba, a cyclonic watch was issued for the provinces of Camagüey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba.
Elsa is expected to remain a hurricane a bit longer over Cuba, which is bad news for the vulnerable island as it faces a deadly increase in COVID-19 cases. Cuba is expected to see winds of 80 mph, up to 15 inches of rain and up to six feet of storm surge on its southern coast.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño to Bahia de Manzanillo as well as Cayman Brac and Little Cayman in the Cayman Islands.
Hurricane Elsa is expected to move near Jamaica and parts of eastern Cuba by Sunday, and over parts of central and western Cuba on Sunday evening and early Monday. Parts of Jamaica and Cuba are under hurricane warning.
The Dominican Republic’s Emergency Operations Center said Friday that all 32 provinces of the Dominican Republic were on high alert as Hurricane Elsa rushed towards Hispaniola.
The southern provinces of San Cristóbal, Peravia, Azua, Barahona and Pedernales were on “red” alert, authorities said at a press conference on Friday morning. 16 other provinces – mainly to the east and west of the island nation – have been placed on yellow alert. The 11 others, concentrated in the north, are on green alert.
There could be as much as eight inches of rain in parts of the Dominican Republic, officials said, particularly in the southwest. Eastern Hispaniola is expected to start receiving bands of rain and wind early on Saturday.
Authorities said government agencies were coordinating the response to Elsa. About 2,400 shelters were activated for the storm, which can house about 560,000 people. Protocols for managing COVID-19 in temporary shelters are also in place: masks must be worn, social distancing will be applied and the spatial capacities of shelters have been reduced.
When Elsa entered the Eastern Caribbean, residents of Barbados, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were on high alert.
In Barbados, the weather services reported a power outage just outside their Charnocks, Christ Church office. Gusts of up to 78 mph have been reported as director Sabu Best warned Barbadians to stay indoors. Several roads have been reported as impassable due to fallen trees.
Police said they received reports of damaged and dislodged roofs, which led Chief Superintendent John Maxwell to issue an appeal from the National Emergency Operations Center before the green light was given.
“There are too many reports of people on the street at a time when it’s not sure. So please listen to the call, ”he urged.
The country’s Grantley Adams International Airport has announced that it will remain closed until 6 a.m. on Saturday.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, residents reported downed power lines and blocked roads, as well as a partially damaged bridge. The two-island nation, which experienced the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano on April 22, was monitoring both the storm’s passage and the volcano, which still triggered small earthquakes.
The center of Elsa crossed the far north of the mainland of St. Vincent around 11 a.m., with winds near 75 mph and higher gusts. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 25 miles and tropical storm force winds outward extended up to 140 miles. Emergency personnel expected light rain and heavy showers in the evening.
Residents have been warned they could see between 3 and 6 inches of rain, with isolated amounts higher late Friday evening.
“This precipitation could cause flash floods and potentially fatal mudslides,” warned the Meteorological Service of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
As the north side of St. Vincent suffered from the effects of the storm, the National Emergency Management Office warned residents to be aware of the potential for heavy precipitation and deposited ash and volcanic debris, which could trigger lava flows. mud.
The country had closed all activities for Friday and by mid-afternoon it reported that only 10 shelters had been activated with a total of 65 people.
Cuba is preparing for the storm, issuing an early warning and entering what it calls the “information phase,” in which authorities ask people to heed the Meteorological Institute’s warnings.
On Thursday evening, Cuba activated its civil defense plan, which includes assessing the need for evacuations in the eastern part of the island on Saturday, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said at a meeting of a group temporary work.
“All provinces must check the food supplies and construction materials we have available to deal with this potentially serious event,” he said Thursday evening during the meeting which was posted on the official journal’s website. of Granma State.
The task force was set up last year to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel on Thursday called an extraordinary meeting to discuss preparedness before Elsa.
“We ask our people to discipline so that we don’t have… more deaths. We will overcome this too, ”said Díaz-Canel.
Cuba faces its deadliest week since the start of the pandemic, crossing the threshold of 3,000 cases per day on Wednesday and registering 20 deaths in a single day on Thursday, also an island record of 11 million.
Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris contributed to this report.
This story was originally published 2 July 2021 18:08.