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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 11/05/2010

Hurricane Tomas battering Haiti, Bahamas next

Turks and Caicos also in the line of fire

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Tomas has been steadily intensifying since yesterday morning and reached hurricane status overnight. Its maximum sustained winds are 85 mph as the storm heads north/northeast at 12 mph through the Windward Channel connecting the Caribbean and Atlantic between eastern Cuba and western Haiti. Some additional strengthening is possible in the next day as the storm sets its eyes on the southeastern Bahamas where it could peak at Category 2 intensity.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos islands, and the Cuban Province of Guantanamo.

Reports of actual conditions are in Haiti scarce, but I spoke to Dr. David Vanderpool medical director for Mobile Medical Disaster Relief who has a team in Haiti providing care to the thousands of victims from January's earthquake. Vanderpool, who is attempting to travel to the region today, tells me his team reports rain and gusty winds around Port-Au-Prince.

"There have been some tents come down and a lot of tarps," he said in an area about 5-6 miles north of the airport.

He also said some flooding has occurred in Cite de Soleil an impoverished community on the south side of the city.

The Haiti Libre reports flooding in multiple refugee camps.

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore - reporting live there - has posted some Twitter updates describing his eyewitness accounts.

Around 11 a.m. he posted some possible good news from Port-Au-Prince:

"Cloud ceilings and visibility have come up big time. Feeling a little better about Port-Au-Prince, #Haiti chances right now. Hope it lasts"

Earlier - at around 7 a.m. - he tweeted:

"Winds from #tomas have gusted to Port-Au- Prince, #Haiti up tropical storm force, 39mph. As we know the tents cannot take this."

The worst conditions in Haiti are likely occurring on its western side, closest to Tomas' center - where 5-10 inches of rain with 10-15" in mountainous terrain are possible. But rainfall of several inches are possible throughout the country - enough to cause mudslides and flooding.

Van der Pool worries that the hurricane "will just accentuate" the cholera outbreak which has already claimed more than 400 lives.

"The rain is just going to be terrible in the refugee camps," he said.

He's also concerned about the problems the storm poses for food distribution - already compromised by poor infrastructure.

"With all the wind and rain, the situation is going to get worse," he told me.

According to AccuWeather:

Adding to an already potentially disastrous situation is the fact that widespread deforestation has taken place across Haiti, as Senior International Meteorologist Jim Andrews has pointed out. On exposed slopes, runoff will be quicker, more significant and carry with it mud, rocks and other debris that will cover anything in its path.

Based on the satellite imagery, it would appear Haiti is a little more than half-way through this storm and the rains should wind down by tonight. But it will probably be many days before the extent of Tomas' impacts are known.

Though Tomas is likely to most severely impact Haiti due to the vulnerability of its population, the Turks and Caicos islands as well as the southeastern Bahamas will also have to deal with this destructive storms as it heads northeast. The worst of the storm's wind and rain will impact these areas overnight, ending during the day tomorrow.

Then the storm should continue northeast, and weaken as it encounters hostile upper level winds and cooler waters.

By  |  12:45 PM ET, 11/05/2010

Categories:  Tropical Weather, Tropical Weather

 
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