Dominica Death Toll Rises to 20 Following Tropical Storm Erika: Prime Minister

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dominica Prime Minister Says 20 Dead Following ‘Erika’.

Fears of a hurricane hitting the Florida coast subsided Friday as forecasters predicted Tropical Storm Erika would weaken to a depression — or maybe even a low-pressure trough — sometime Saturday. With all the uncertainty over the storm’s precise path and strength, however, emergency-management officials across Central Florida were still preparing for possible flooding in many low-lying areas across the region — including near Astor, Geneva, south Lake County and Lake Monroe. “It’s too early to say on the rainfall amount, but there is a good potential for heavy rains,” said Peter Blottman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne. Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address late Friday that the island has been set back 20 years in the damage inflicted by the storm. “The extent of the devastation is monumental.

In Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located and which has already been saturated by mammoth rainfalls his summer, workers were handing out 25 sandbags per household. “If we get a lot of rain there, that’s probably one of our biggest concerns,” said Scott, who urged Tampa Bay residents to prepare for a deluge. “You need three days of water, three days of food.” Jeff Masters of Weather Underground said even if Erika weakens, already soggy Tampa and St. Erika, which is bringing rains and gusty winds to the Dominican Republic, was about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Port Au Prince, Haiti, with top winds of 45 miles per hour, the Miami-based center said in an advisory at 8 p.m. It’s better to be prepared.” Latest predictions show Erika making landfall Monday morning as a weak storm on Florida’s southwestern coast and then moving up the state’s west coast. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system was expected to move north across the island of Hispaniola where the high mountains would weaken it to a tropical depression on Saturday, and possibly cause it to dissipate entirely.

Weather officials said there is still a chance the storm could regain some strength off northern Cuba and people in Florida should still keep an eye on it and brace for heavy rain, according to John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at the center. “Stay up with what’s going on. Because the river flows very slowly, it would bring rainwater into Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties over several days after the storm had passed. It’s really chaotic.” Tropical storm warnings remained in effect across the Caribbean including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Haiti, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, St.

Erika’s heavy rains set off floods and mudslides in Dominica, where at least 31 people have been reported missing, according to officials with the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency. It could regain tropical storm strength Sunday “I think she will emerge up near the west coast of Florida and sort of stall out as a big rainstorm,” Crawford said. “Not as anything particularly interesting, just a big blob of rain.” The rain may help southern Florida, said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. One grocery store manager told the station that the store had 30 pallets of water ready to be sold, while another said he restocked shelves seven times between noon and 5 p.m.

Skerrit said he is forming a national reconstruction advisory committee and asked people to share their resources with each other as foreign aid trickles in. “This is a period of national tragedy,” he said. “Floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. We even got a propane stove.” In Broward County, just north of Miami, the cities of Hollywood and Hallandale Beach announced they would distribute sandbags Friday and Saturday to residents concerned about possible flooding. Some communities are no longer recognizable.” “When I returned, I saw that my house that I have lived in for over 20 years was gone,” he said. “I am blessed to be alive. Water officials said workers had begun setting up pump stations in Hollywood to keep water levels low ahead of the storm surge. “We can’t wait until we see where it’s actually going to hit,” Jeff Kivett of the South Florida Water Management District told WSVN, “so we started our preparations.” Other cities, such as North Miami Beach began work to keep storm drains clear ahead of the expected deluge. I have lost everything and now have to start all over again.” Given how weak the storm now is and how dry Puerto Rico and parts of Florida have been, “it could be a net benefit, this thing,” said MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel.

As of Friday evening, the storm was about 95 miles west-southwest of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was moving west at about 21 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the U.S. Orlando Emergency Manager Manny Soto said city officials were monitoring the storm closely and wanted to have a complete plan of action by late Friday or Saturday. School districts will be using automated messaging systems to alert parents to any changes in school schedules and will also depend on social media and their own websites to post updates. Lake school officials were expected to meet Saturday morning to discuss whether to keep classes open and whether any schools should be converted to storm shelters.

At Florida Hospital, officials said they have been “stockpiling water, clearing drains and filling sandbags” around the health system’s eight campuses. “Extra generators have also been brought in to ensure no disruption in hospital operations in the event of a power outage,” said hospital spokesman David Breen. Staff writers Naseem Miller, Leslie Postal, Annie Martin, Bethany Rodgers and Gabrielle Russon contributed to this report. mcomas@tribpub.com or sallen@tribpub.com.

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