Tropical Storm Elsa brings strong winds, steady downpour to Cuba

imageWorld15 minutes ago (Jul 04, 2021 05:36PM ET)

(C) Reuters. Volcanic ash and mud fill a road following the passing of Hurricane Elsa in an area on the north coast, made impassible from the south due to the ash fallout from successive eruptions of La Souffriere volcano combined with storm rainfall, in Sandy Bay, St


By Marc Frank and Kate Chappell

HAVANA (Reuters) -Tropical Storm Elsa on Sunday arrived with force in eastern Cuba, whipping palms with strong winds and bringing a steady downpour along parts of the Caribbean island’s southern coast, as others in the region were still grappling with the fallout.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said maximum sustained winds were near 60 miles per hour (95 km per hour) with higher gusts, having downgraded Elsa from a hurricane, on Saturday.

A hurricane is defined as having winds of at least 75 mph (121 kph).

“There is a lot of wind and waves of a meter or more,” Wilfredo Munoz Lopez, who rents rooms to tourists on Cabo Cruz, said by phone. “There is no one out. Everyone is in their home or shelters, as we expect it to get worse.”

Local forecasters are warning of intense rain for days with the worst in central and perhaps western Cuba.

Inland from Cabo Cruz, in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra Mountains, homemaker Misladi Pulgar said “there is not much wind but a lot of rain, even for this area. They evacuated everyone living near the rivers and reservoirs.”

According to provincial reports, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated in the potential path of the storm, most to homes of family and friends, but thousands also to government shelters.

Evacuations were underway as far west as Havana for fear that rains over the next few days could cause the collapse of dilapidated buildings.

This has raised concerns as the country is experiencing a surge of the coronavirus with a transmission rate of more than 10% on Saturday, twice what often triggers a lockdown.

Elsa’s center was near eastern Cuba, the NHC said. It was about 15 miles (20 km) west of Cabo Cruz at 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT), and heading northwest.

The storm will bring 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm) of rain to Cuba, with some spots getting up to 15 inches (38 cm). Cuba’s southern coast is forecast to receive a storm surge of up to 5 feet (1.5 m).

Elsa is forecast to continue to approach central Cuba late on Sunday and early Monday, before heading toward the Florida Straits on Monday and pass near the Florida Keys early Tuesday.

Tornadoes are possible across southern Florida on Monday afternoon and into Tuesday, the Miami-based NHC said in an alert

The approaching storm has forced Florida officials to begin work to demolish the remaining portion of a condo building that collapsed 11 days ago, killing at least 24 with over 120 people missing.

Authorities in Haiti, where the storm has severely affected the agriculture sector, according to an initial assessment, warned of a risk of floods and landslides.

In Jamaica’s capital Kingston, some roads were flooded.

“Persons have been trapped in vehicles,” Owen Palmer, a first responder said, adding that some Jamaicans were scared.

“They didn’t take the storm seriously – as Jamaicans always do – until the rain started to fall.”

Iane Thomas, who runs a small restaurant, said a swollen river flooded nearby houses. “The river was running very fast cause plenty rain fell in the morning. It came down from the hills,” Thomas said.

Tropical Storm Elsa brings strong winds, steady downpour to Cuba