Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tropical Storm Erika weakens as heads toward Cuba, but leaves 20 dead in eastern Caribbean

Tropical Storm Erika weakens as heads toward Cuba, but leaves 20 dead in
eastern Caribbean
Published August 29, 2015 Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Tropical Storm Erika was losing its
punch as it drenched Haiti and the Dominican Republic early Saturday,
but it left devastation in its path, killing at least 20 people and
leaving another 31 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of
Dominica, authorities said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that mountains and an
unfavorable environment would likely knock Erika below tropical storm
force, though there's a small chance it could recover as it moves along
Cuba and then approaches Florida late Sunday.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address
late Friday that damage inflicted by the storm set the island back 20
years. Some 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain fell on the mountainous

"The extent of the devastation is monumental. It is far worse than
expected," he said, adding that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads
have been destroyed. "We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica."

At least 31 people have been reported missing, according to officials
with the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency.

The island's airports remained closed, and some communities remained
isolated by flooding and landslides.

Skerrit asked people to share their resources with each other as foreign
aid trickles in.

"This is a period of national tragedy," he said. "Floods swamped
villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no
longer recognizable."

Erika still carried enough force to knock out power to more than 200,000
people in Puerto Rico and cause more than $16 million in damage to crops
there, including plantains, bananas and coffee.

While the storm was stumbling over the Dominican Republic and Haiti,
John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at the center, warned that people
in Florida should still brace for heavy rain, said "This is a
potentially heavy rain event for a large part of the state," he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire
state and officials urged residents to fill gas tanks and stockpile food
and water.

Erika is a particularly wet storm, and its moving across a region that
has been struggling with drought.

Given how weak the storm now is and how dry Puerto Rico and parts of
Florida have been, "it could be a net benefit, this thing," said MIT
meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel.

The center of Erika was located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and was moving west at about 21 mph (33 kph), the
Hurricane Center said late Friday. The storm's maximum sustained winds
dropped slightly to 45 mph (75 kph).

The storm was driving west-northwestward at 20 mph (31 kph), with the
eastern tip of Cuba about 145 miles (235 kilometers) ahead. The
Hurricane Center said it was likely to slow before hitting Cuba or the
southeastern Bahamas.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Jimena turned into a powerful Category 3
hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph (205 kph), and the
Hurricane Center said it was likely to be near Category 5 status soon,
though it did not pose an immediate threat to land.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP writers Carlisle Jno
Baptiste in Roseau, Dominica, and Ben Fox and Tamara Lush in Miami
contributed to this report.

Source: Tropical Storm Erika weakens as heads toward Cuba, but leaves 20
dead in eastern Caribbean | Fox News -

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