Isaac drenches Haiti, heads toward Florida; Naples-based group reports all is OK

Isaac's 5-day track forecast as of 5 a.m. Sunday.

NOAA

Isaac's 5-day track forecast as of 5 a.m. Sunday.

Isaac's tropical storm force winds speed probabilities as of 8 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

NOAA

Isaac's tropical storm force winds speed probabilities as of 8 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Storm Shield

Storm Shield

We have you covered with our Storm Shield app--top-rated in iTunes.

News Alerts

News Alerts

Sign up to get the latest new updates sent straight to your phone.

Hurricane Guide

Hurricane Guide

Find hurricane shelters, plot evacuation routes and track a hurricane in the special section online or pick up a print copy at your local Ace Hardware.

Participate

Submit your photos and videos of Issac to our Participate site.

Tropical Storm Isaac pushed over Cuba on Saturday after sweeping across Haiti's southern peninsula, where it caused flooding and at least four deaths, adding to the misery of a poor nation still trying to recover from the terrible 2010 earthquake.

Isaac's center made landfall just before midday near the far-eastern tip of Cuba, downing trees and power lines. In the picturesque city of Baracoa, the storm surge flooded the seaside Malecon and a block inland, destroying two homes.

Forecasters said Isaac poses a threat to Florida Monday and Tuesday, just as the Republican Party gathers for its national convention in Tampa. It could eventually hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of nearly 100 mph (160 kph).

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, officials urged vacationers to leave the Florida Keys and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said a hurricane warning was in effect there, as well as for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach south to Ocean Reef and for Florida Bay.

At least four people were reported dead in Haiti including a 10-year-old girl who had a wall fall on her, according to the country's Civil Protection Office. There were no immediate details on how the others died.

The government also reported two injuries; "considerable damage" to agriculture and homes; nearly 8,000 people who were evacuated from their houses or quake shelters; and more than 4,000 who were taken to temporary shelters.

Many, however, stayed and suffered.

The Grise River overflowed north of Port-au-Prince, sending chocolate-brown water spilling through the sprawling shantytown of Cite Soleil, where many people grabbed what possessions they could and carried them on their heads, wading through waist-deep water.

"From last night, we're in misery," said Cite Soleil resident Jean-Gymar Joseph. "All our children are sleeping in the mud, in the rain."

Scores of tents in quake settlements collapsed. In a roadside lot in Cite Soleil, the dozens of tents and shelters provided by international groups after the earthquake were tossed to the ground like pieces of crumpled paper, and the occupants tried to save their belongings.

"They promised they were going to build us a sturdy home and it never came," Jean-Robert Sauviren, an unemployed 63-year-old father of six said as he stood barefoot in the water and held aloft his arms. "Maybe we don't deserve anything."

Ricknel Charles, a 42-year-old pastor, sheltered some 50 displaced people in his church.

"This is the only thing I can do for them: give them a place to sleep," Charles said.

Two Southwest Florida aid organizations with employees in Haiti reported their workers were safe and the populations they serve made it through the storm relatively unscathed.

“It was a lot less damage than what was expected,” said Tiffany Kuehner, president and CEO of the nonprofit Hope For Haiti, which maintains offices in Naples and the Caribbean island nation. The nonprofit sent survival kits to 60 families affected by Isaac - far below the 2,000 they prepared.

Rad Hazelip, of the Lee County-based Love a Child, said that while Port-au-Prince and Jacmel were hit hard with rains and wind, further inland where the Christian mission maintains a neighborhood of 200 homes and an orphanage, the only damage was a few downed trees.

“They dodged another bullet,” Hazelip said. “We were there to help them if they needed it, but they didn't.”

About 300 homes in Cite Soleil lost their roofs or were flooded three feet (one meter) deep, according to Rachel Brumbaugh, operation manager for the U.S. nonprofit group World Vision.

Doctors Without Borders said it anticipated a spike in cholera cases due to flooding and it was preparing to receive more patients.

The international airport reopened by the afternoon but there was still extensive flooding throughout Port-au-Prince after 24 hours of steady rain.

Forecasters predicted the storm would likely march up through the Gulf of Mexico and approach the Florida Keys on Sunday, then continue north off the state's west coast as a hurricane on Monday, just as the Republican National Convention is scheduled to start.

Tampa is within the tropical storm watch zone, meaning forecasters believe tropical storm conditions are possible there within the next 48 hours.

Gov. Scott said during a media briefing that delegates were being told how to stay safe during a storm, and officials were ready for storm surge, bridge closures and other problems that could arise during the convention.

After hitting land near the easternmost tip of Cuba on Saturday, Isaac's center spent just a few hours over the island before reemerging into the water, where it was expected to pick up strength.

On Saturday night, the storm was centered about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east-northeast of Camaguey, Cuba, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph), the Hurricane Center reported. It was moving northwest along the Cuban coastline at 20 mph (31 kph).

Tropical storm-force winds extended nearly 205 miles (335 kilometers) from the center, giving Isaac a broad sweep as it passed.

In Baracoa, authorities cut off electricity as a preventive measure. Civil defense officials patrolled the streets and told onlookers to be careful as they gawked at the powerful surf kicked up by the storm. Waves crashing against the seawall sent spray high into the air and deposited rocks and other debris on land.

Dariel Villares and a cousin who lives next door lost their seaside homes.

"A high wave came and knocked down both walls: mine and my cousin's," Villares said. "Now we're removing everything of value."

There were no reports of fatalities, Red Cross worker Javier de la Cruz said.

Flooding was reported in low-lying coastal areas and 230 people were in emergency shelters, according to state TV.

In central Cuba, far to the west of Baracoa, the Sol Cayo Coco beach resort moved guests out of ground floor rooms. Intermittent rains and gusty winds buffeted Havana, 560 miles (900 kilometers) away.

Cuba has a highly organized civil defense system that goes door-to-door to enforce evacuations of at-risk areas, largely averting casualties from storms even when they cause major flooding and significant damage to crops.

Near the island's southeastern tip, the U.S. military suspended ferry service at the Guantanamo Bay naval base and bunked guards inside prison facilities, but operations were returning to normal by late afternoon.

"The bad weather did not materialize here as tropical storm Isaac turned away," Navy Capt. Robert Durand said.

Authorities in the Dominican Republic evacuated nearly 7,800 people from low-lying areas, and at least 10 rural settlements were cut off by flooding, according to Juan Manuel Mendez, director of rescue teams. Power was knocked out in parts of the capital, Santo Domingo.

There were no reports of injuries, but 49 homes across the country were destroyed.

Authorities discontinued a tropical storm warning, but rainfall was expected to reach up to 12 inches (300 millimeters) over the weekend.

"We still have a big cloudy area over the island that will produce lots of rain" until Sunday afternoon, said Francisco Holguin of the local meteorological agency.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features