Tropical Storm Isaias is a threat
The Northern Caribbean Islands should brace themselves for a potential tropical storm passing the region this week. Gusty winds and heavy rain were spreading across the Leeward Islands on Wednesday as a tropical disturbance started to develop into Tropical Storm Isaias.
By early Wednesday morning the developing tropical system was located about five miles south of Dominica. The system has winds of 45 mph and is traveling WNW at 23 mph.
There are Tropical Storm warnings for parts of the Lesser Antilles that include the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti as well as Tropical Storm watches for parts of the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the Bahamas.
The system is expected to continue to move through the Leeward Islands throughout Wednesday before nearing the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday night and the system will arrive in Hispaniola on Thursday and the Bahamas on Friday.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said that hurricane officials throughout the region spent Tuesday watching and preparing for the potential arrival of Tropical Storm Isaias.
But with the region already in turmoil by the long COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, officials are also dealing with practical problems. The need to respond to any potential threat posed by a hurricane or tropical storm while limiting exposure to the deadly virus that has already infected more than 100,000 people in the Caribbean region and killed more than 1,200, is difficult.
“It’s a very complicated scenario. We have a lot of variables to take into account that have been added to our regular workload,” said Jerry Chandler, the head of Haiti’s Civil Protection office. “We’re taking necessary measures but we are also having to play it by ear, depending on what pans out, and see how we address and adapt.”
The ninth tropical cyclone, in what’s expected to be a very active storm season, could drop three to six inches of rain on the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic while it lashes the islands with 60 mph winds.
Flooding and rain is also expected in the Bahamas, where on Tuesday officials were not only keeping a close eye on the storm’s movement but its spiking COVID-19 cases after registering 65 new infections, their largest single-day accumulation so far.
Forecasters have stressed that the potential storm’s path and intensity are unpredictable at press time. Everything from Saharan dust clouds to the mountains of the Antilles could affect the outcome. Still, it didn’t make Caribbean emergency officials any less worried.
Recent rainfall in Haiti had saturated the ground which means even a brush with the country’s northern region, could lead to devastating mudslides and flooding. It is one of the region’s biggest challenges.
During a virtual conference Monday with members of the 15-member Caribbean Community known as CARICOM, the bloc’s secretary general, Irwin LaRocque, said that while the region has done well in managing the COVID-19 outbreak, hurricane season presents new risks.
“The challenge of managing COVID and the threat of a hurricane is real,” he said.