By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Tropical Storm Elsa is now on a straight land-free path towards Cuba. Weather conditions began to deteriorate this morning in some of the eastern provinces including Santiago de Cuba.
In preparation for possible damage from 100 kph (+ or -) winds, heavy rain, and especially coastal flooding, the government reported having already evacuated at least 70,000 persons. They said the majority went to relatives’ homes while 23,000 were in government facilities, noted AP.
Cuba’s Civil Defense authorities implemented a Tropical Storm Warning for the provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, Santiago de Cuba, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Mayabeque, and Havana.
One of the measures taken has been harvesting any crops that could be lost with the passing of the storm. Any losses in agriculture will be doubly felt afterwards in a country already reeling from basic food shortages.
At 11 AM Sunday the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported: “Maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph (95 km/h) with higher gusts. Some strengthening is possible today and tonight as Elsa approaches the south-central coast of Cuba. However, gradual weakening is forecast to occur on Monday when Elsa moves across Cuba. After Elsa emerges over the Florida Straits and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, some slight restrengthening is possible.”
After passing through Cuba, most likely on Monday night some time the storm will then head for Florida on Tuesday.
Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm of the hurricane season which lasts until the end of November. It is the first directly affecting Cuba.
The NHC said the storm is forecast to drop 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters) across portions of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica.
Likewise, on Sunday and Monday, rainfall of 5 to 10 inches with as much as 15 inches in isolated areas is possible in Cuba. This can result in significant flash flooding and mudslides the NHC noted.