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Hurricane Elsa races toward Haiti amid fears of landslides
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 03 - 07 - 2021

Hurricane Elsa raced toward Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, where it threatened to unleash flooding and landslides before taking aim at Cuba and Florida.
The Category 1 storm was located about 395 miles (635 kilometers) east-southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic and was moving west-northwest at 29 mph (46 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), with the hurricane expected to become a tropical storm after hitting Cuba, AP quoted the National Hurricane Center in Miami as saying.
Elsa, the first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season, continued its breakneck pace through the Caribbean Saturday towarads Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it is forecast to trigger dangerous storm surge and widespread heavy rain.
The storm underwent rapid intensification to become a hurricane early Friday morning season as it raced toward the Caribbean islands. Within 24 hours, Elsa went from tropical-storm strength with 40-mph winds to a Category 1 hurricane with 75-mph winds.
By its maximum sustained winds increasing by at least 35 mph within 24 hours, the storm's strengthening just met the criteria set by the National Hurricane Center to qualify as "rapid intensification."
Hurricane Elsa was about 440 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica packing sustained winds of 75 mph and booking toward the west-northwest at 31 mph at 8 a.m. EDT Saturday. Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph or greater, extended out 25 miles from the storm's center and tropical-storm-force winds extended out farther up to 125 miles out from its center.
The storm was a bit weaker Saturday when compared to Friday when its maximum-sustained winds were around 85 mph during the afternoon and evening hours. But the storm has also already been blamed for widespread damage and power outages, including in the islands of Barbados and St. Vincent.
Hurricane Elsa ripped roofs off homes, toppled trees and caused flooding in Barbados before whipping heavy rain and wind in St. Vincent Friday, Reuters reported. Many power outages were also blamed on Elsa.
As the storm tore through Barbados, Wilfred A. Abrahams, the island's Minister of Home Affairs Information and Public Affairs, urged residents of the island nation to shelter in place, adding that folks should only leave their homes if the structures are damaged. Authorities in Haiti urged people to evacuate if they lived near water or mountain flanks.
"Elsa is expected to regain wind intensity early next week once it passes north of Cuba and moves into the eastern Gulf," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said. "And there is a chance that conditions may be favorable for Elsa to affect Florida as a hurricane for a time during Tuesday and Wednesday," he added.
Weather conditions could begin to deteriorate in the Florida Keys and southern Florida as soon as Monday night. At this early stage, there is the likelihood of flooding rainfall, damaging winds and power outages over the Florida Peninsula with perhaps the worst conditions along the Gulf Coast side.
Meteorologists urged people who live in or near the potential storm zone to have a plan of action, not only in Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Cuba but also in Florida at this time.
Florida residents have been warned to secure materials and tools necessary to install storm shutters. They also advise fueling up and testing generators and gathering bags for travel in case of a need to evacuate.
Elsa's exact track and strength — whether it approaches the US as a tropical storm or a hurricane — will be determined by how it behaves over the Caribbean. — Agencies

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