(AP) — Cuba
evacuated 70,000 people
along the island's southern coast on Sunday, fearing that Tropical Storm Elsa
, which battered several Caribbean
islands and killed at least three people, would cause heavy flooding.
The Cuban government had opened shelters and moved to protect sugarcane and cocoa crops ahead of the storm. The majority of those evacuated went to relatives' homes, while about 23,000 people sought refuge at government facilities. Some 400 people living in mountainous areas sought refuge in natural caves that had been prepared for the emergency.
The storm's next stop was Florida
, where Governor Ron DeSantis
declared a state of emergency in 15 counties, including Miami-Dade County
, where a high-rise condominium building collapsed last week.
According to the National Hurricane Center
in Miami, Elsa was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Kingston, Jamaica
, on Sunday morning, and was moving
west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph), with maximum sustained winds of about 60 mph (95 kph).
The storm will gradually weaken as it moves across Cuba on Monday, according to the center.
“Some minor restrengthening is possible after Elsa emerges over the Florida Straits and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico
,” it said.
According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the storm killed one person in St. Lucia; meanwhile, a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman died Saturday in separate incidents in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them, according to an Emergency Operations Center statement.
Elsa remained a Category 1 hurricane until Saturday morning, causing widespread damage in several eastern Caribbean islands as the Atlantic
season's first hurricane. Among the hardest hit was Barbados, where more than 1,100 people reported damaged houses, including 62 that completely collapsed, as the government promised to find and fund temporary housing
to avoid crowding.
There have also been reports of downed trees in Haiti, which is particularly vulnerable to floods and landslides due to widespread erosion
A tropical storm warning was issued for Jamaica and from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic's southern border
, and a hurricane watch
was issued for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Santiago de Cuba, which have reported a high number of COVID-19
infections, raising fears that the storm could force lanes to close.
According to Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University
of Miami, Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record. She also broke the record for the fastest-moving hurricane in the tropics, clocking in at 31 mph on Saturday morning.
Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) are expected, with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters) expected across parts of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica.