MIAMI – Haiti braced for another potential natural disaster Wednesday as Tropical Storm Emily churned toward a nation where more than 600,000 people still live in makeshift encampments 18 months after a devastating earthquake.
Emily struggled to hold its form most of the day but, heavy with drenching rain, it nonetheless posed a serious threat in a nation where flash floods and mudslides have killed hundreds in previous storms. The governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic issued “red alerts” as the first fringe storms swept across Hispaniola in the late afternoon.
“For now, God is the only savior for me,” Jislaine Jean-Julien, a street vendor who lost her home to the quake, told the Associated Press as she prayed in her tent in the capital of Port-au-Prince. “I would go someplace else if I could, but I have no place else to go.”
For South Florida, the Bahamas and elsewhere, forecasters said impacts remained more uncertain, largely dependent on how the disorganized storm survived a rough crossing of the mountains of Hispaniola and Eastern Cuba.
“Right now, it’s looking like a big sloppy tropical storm,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County.
Whether that means 50-mph winds, power outages and flooded neighborhoods or just a blustery weekend won’t be clear until today or Friday.
In Haiti, where hillsides stripped of trees and foliage increase the risk of deadly mudslides, the hurricane center was predicting from six to 12 inches of rain, with up to 20 inches in some mountain areas. Civil authorities had not yet called for evacuations and the hope was that the worst weather would bypass a capital city where masses remain homeless and shelters are in short supply.