Friday, June 18, 2010

Flood Threat for Caribbean Islands

Flood Threat for Caribbean Islands, Including Haiti

By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
Jun 18, 2010; 10:39 AM

The tropical disturbance that was once being monitored for development threatens to spread flooding downpours across the Caribbean islands into this weekend. This includes earthquake-devastated Haiti.

The disturbance's downpours are currently impacting the Leeward Islands. Numerous downpours will spread over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tonight into Saturday, then Haiti Saturday night into Sunday.

The mountainous terrain of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, will enhance the rainfall produced by the disturbance.

Some mountainous locations, especially those that face southeast, could receive up to 6 inches of rain. Dangerous mudslides and flooding are serious concerns.

The mountains in far southern Haiti should actually help the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince, escape the heaviest rain. As the air descends from these mountain peaks, some moisture will get lost.

Haiti is still trying to rebuild after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that rebuilding has been hampered by organizational problems, government disfunction, and the overall scale of the disaster.

Even though five months have passed since the earthquake, collapsed buildings still line the streets in Port-au-Prince. Residents are living under leaky tarps and tents that may not be able to withstand extreme weather.

According to the New York Times, roughly 1.5 million Haitians remain homeless.

On Thursday, former U.S. President Bill Clinton officially inaugurated the commission overseeing Haiti's post-earthquake reconstruction.

Worsening the situation for Haiti is the fact that the quake left behind unstable hillsides, increasing the danger of mudslides due to torrential rainfall.

Many of the forests of Haiti have been clear-cut years ago, adding to the vulnerability of flooding and mudslides.

Giovanni Riccardi Candiani, head of contingency planning for the U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, told the Palm Beach Post that flooding is a significant concern in Haiti. Tropical storms in 2004 killed almost 3,000 people; many of these victims died due to the floods.

Haiti may also be at greater risk to suffer from hurricane damage due to its weakened condition. Hurricane Expert Joe Bastardi is expecting a top-10 hurricane season, which could include as many as 18 named storms.

Bastardi also said that Haiti may be overdue for a significant hurricane season. Haiti was hardest hit by hurricanes Flora, Cleo and Inez in the 1960s.

Disturbance Could Impact Florida Next Week

Beyond this weekend, the disturbance will continue to press northwestward next week. Downpours are expected to spread across Cuba and the Bahamas early in the week. Around midweek is when heavy thunderstorms may invade South Florida, including Miami.

The disturbance should then enter the Gulf of Mexico. It is here where meteorologists will have to monitor the potential for tropical development.

Strong winds high in the atmosphere, also known as wind shear, are currently preventing the disturbance from developing.

Kristen Rodman and Kirstie Hettinga, Staff Writers, contributed to the content of this story.

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