Elsa strengthens into season’s first hurricane in Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Elsa intensified into the first hurricane of the Atlantic season on Friday as it struck the eastern Caribbean, where officials closed schools, shops and airports, and it appeared he eventually went to Florida.

The Category 1 storm triggered heavy rains and winds in Barbados and then St Vincent and the Grenadines, which are struggling to recover from recent massive volcanic eruptions.

Elsa was about 10 kilometers north of St. Vincent and moving at 46 km / h from west to northwest. It had maximum sustained winds of 120 km / h, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

“These persistent winds can bring down many buildings and do a lot of damage,” said St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. “I beg you. Let’s not take this hurricane lightly. This is not the time to play the fool. “

A hurricane warning was issued for St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as for the south of Haiti from the capital Port-au-Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic.

The long-term trace showed the fast-moving storm rolled as a hurricane on Hispaniola, the island divided by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, before weakening back to tropical storm strength and possibly moving to Florida by Tuesday morning.

Authorities opened dozens of shelters in St. Vincent and urged people to evacuate if they lived near a valley due to the threat of flash floods, mudslides and lahars, especially in the northern part of the island, where La Volcano is located Soufriere is located.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late to go to a shelter,” said Gonsalves.

He said 94 shelters are open, a lower number than in previous years as around 2,000 people are staying in other shelters after massive volcanic eruptions that began in early April.

A hurricane watch has been issued for Jamaica and the south coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti.

According to Colorado State University’s hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, Elsa is the earliest, fifth-name storm ever recorded, defeating last year’s Eduardo, which formed on July 6th. He also noted that it is the most easterly location that a hurricane has formed this early in the tropical Atlantic since 1933. The average 1991-2020 date for the first Atlantic hurricane formation is mid-August.

The storm was expected to bring 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) of rain over the Windward and southern Leeward Islands on Friday for a maximum grand total of 10 inches (25 centimeters) inches. The rain could trigger isolated flash floods and mudslides.