SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Elsa got stronger in the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on Friday as it blew up rooftops, smashed trees and destroyed crops in the eastern Caribbean, where authorities shut down schools, businesses and airports. He seemed to be finally heading for Florida.
The Category 1 storm is the first hurricane to hit Barbados in more than 60 years, triggering heavy rains and high winds on the island and then on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which are struggling to recover from recent massive volcanic eruptions.
Elsa was centered about 635 kilometers east-southeast of Isla Beata in the Dominican Republic and was moving west-northwest at 29 mph (46 km / h). It had maximum sustained winds of 130 km / h (80 mph), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“This level of sustained wind can bring down many buildings and cause a lot of damage,” said Prime Minister of Saint Vincent Ralph Gonsalves. ” I beg you. Let’s not take this hurricane lightly. Now is not the time to fool around.
The long-range forecast track showed it heading for Florida like a tropical storm on Tuesday morning, but some models would prevail in the Gulf or along the Atlantic coast.
Authorities in Barbados said they had received calls of families trapped in their homes, collapsed houses and power and water outages, but no reports of serious injuries or deaths. Wilfred Abrahams, Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, urged people to open their homes to those in need.
“We get a lot of damage reports,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials in Saint Lucia said 90% of electricity customers were without power during the height of the storm. Landslides, flooding and damaged houses have also been reported.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica and from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic. A hurricane watch was issued for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Santiago de Cuba.
The predicted track showed the storm moving rapidly towards Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, like a hurricane before reaching Cuba and weakening to revert to a tropical storm force.
Authorities opened dozens of shelters in Saint-Vincent and urged people to evacuate if they lived near a valley, given the threat of flash floods, mudslides and lahars, especially in the northern part of the island where the La Soufrière volcano is located.
Gonsalves said 94 shelters are open, a number lower than in previous years as some 2,000 people remain in other shelters following massive volcanic eruptions that began in early April.
According to researcher Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, Elsa is the first storm to be named fifth on record, beating last year’s Eduardo, which formed on July 6. He also noted that it is the most easterly hurricane that has formed this early in the tropical Atlantic since 1933. The 1991 to 2020 average date for the formation of the first hurricane in the Atlantic is mid-August.
The storm was expected to bring 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters) inches on Friday over the Windward and Southern Leeward Islands. The rain could trigger isolated flash floods and mudslides.