Monday, October 29, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel closes in on Haiti, expected to hit Cuba next

Tropical Storm Noel closes in on Haiti, expected to hit Cuba next
By Jonathan M. Katz

12:45 a.m. October 29, 2007

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Officials in Haiti feared flash floods would hit
impoverished areas of the nation early Monday, as Tropical Storm Noel
lashed the country with heavy rains.

Noel, the 14th named storm of the Atlantic season, was projected to
reach Haiti and the Dominican Republic – which share the island of
Hispaniola – in the morning before heading on toward Cuba.

The strengthening Caribbean storm, which formed into a tropical storm
Sunday, poses a serious threat to Haiti, where floods killed at least 37
earlier this month.

Noel had sustained winds of about 60 mph and its outer bands were
dumping rain over Hispaniola overnight, according to the U.S. National
Hurricane Center in Miami.

At 2 a.m. EDT, Noel's center was roughly 90 miles south of the Haitian
capital of Port-au-Prince, forecasters said.

The meandering storm was spinning north-northwest at roughly 5 mph, on a
projected track that would bring its center near the southeastern
peninsula of Haiti. A tropical storm warning was issued for the entire
Haitian coastline and parts of neighboring Dominican Republic's southern

Forecasters said Noel, with tropical storm force winds fanning 115 miles
from its center, could drop 12 inches of water on Hispaniola,
southeastern Cuba and Jamaica.

Dominican authorities said at least 600 people had been evacuated as the
storm touched off landslides, flooded rivers and pushed storm surges
onto Santo Domingo's seaside boulevard.

Swollen rivers also forced evacuations in Cabaret, a town north of
Port-au-Prince where floods killed at least 23 people earlier this
month, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of Haiti's civil
protection agency.

"We are working hard to make sure everything goes well and that every
citizen knows a cyclone is coming," Jean-Baptiste said. It could take
days for Haitian authorities to learn of flooding in some parts of the
country, where communications are limited.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch were issued for
southeastern parts of Cuba, including the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo
Bay where the U.S. military holds some 330 detainees on suspicion of
links to terrorism.

"I don't envision the storm will have any tangible impacts on detention
operations as the modern facilities have been constructed to withstand
high winds and significant rainfall," said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a
Pentagon spokesman.

Flood concerns on Saturday forced three U.S. senators to cut short a
trip to Haiti, where they'd planned to survey damage caused by earlier

"It was just raining like mad," Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa told The
Associated Press before flying out of Port-au-Prince Saturday evening.
Senators Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Tennessee's Bob Corker were
also visiting.

Widespread deforestation and poor drainage mean that even moderate rains
can cause devastation in Haiti, where thousands of people build
ramshackle homes in flood plains.

In 2004 the Caribbean nation was hit by Tropical Storm Jeanne, which
triggered flooding and mudslides that killed more than 2,000 people.
That storm later strengthened into a hurricane.

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