Tropical Storm Isaac lashes Haiti; parts of Florida under hurricane warning

Gale-force winds and pelting rain from Tropical Storm Isaac fell on Haiti early Saturday as daylight revealed early signs of damage on a tiny nation still recovering from a devastating earthquake, CNN reports.

The massive 2010 quake left hundreds of thousands of Haitians in tent cities, forcing them to ride out Isaac in makeshift homes.

Storm damage was apparent in the cities of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel early Saturday.There were no reports of fatalities, but inspection for damage was still under way as the sun rose.

As night turned to day in the capital, Haitian radio reported floods and mudslides.

In Jacmel, on the southern coast of Haiti, power was out, and heavy rain and strong winds persisted into the morning hours. Damage to trees and houses was visible, and there was little movement on the streets.NC storm scenario

Forecasters issued a hurricane warning for portions of the west coast of Florida and the Florida Keys.

As of 8 a.m. ET, Isaac — with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph — was 95 miles southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba, and moving at 14 mph, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

The center of Isaac will move near or over eastern Cuba Saturday, the center said, and near the north coast of Cuba by nightfall.

Strengthening is forecast one Isaac passes Cuba and is over open water again, and it will approach the Florida Keys on Sunday, the center said.

Isaac may also become a hurricane that day, the center said.

Rainfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are expected, with up to 20 inches possible in portions of Hispaniola — the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Cuba issued a tropical storm warning for its eastern provinces, and the Bahamian government put Andros Island under a hurricane watch, the National Hurricane Center said.

A hurricane watch was issued early Saturday for Florida’s east coast, from Golden Beach south, while a hurricane warning was issued for the Florida Keys, the west coast of Florida, from Bonita Beach south, and the Florida Bay, according to the hurricane center.

A watch means hurricane conditions are possible, and a warning means that hurricane conditions are expected.

Forecasters believe Isaac may pose a risk to Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention is due to kick off Monday.

For the moment, those believed to be at greatest risk from Isaac’s onslaught are some of the roughly 300,000 Haitians still living in temporary homes — primarily tents — following the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000. At the height of the disaster, it forced more than 500,000 people into tent cities.

Haitian President Michel Martelly had visited camps to encourage people to go to shelters but acknowledged not everyone would be able get out.

“Those who are very vulnerable, they are moved out of these camps. And the ones who are remaining behind are those who are stronger to fight this situation,”he said Friday.

Power was out at the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince, which has been operating on a generator since just before midnight, said Scott Gillenwater of the Project Medishare, which provides services at the hospital.

Outside, strong winds and rain pounded the capital.

“I can’t imagine tents being able to last through this,” he said.

Staff at Bernard Meds spent three days preparing for the storm’s arrival.

“We anticipate many crush injuries from mudslides to come into the trauma center,” Gillenwater said.

Some residents living in one tent community said they were staying put with their belongings and would ride out the storm.

Residents in Jacmel were worried Isaac would bring a repeat of the flooding the town experienced during a storm several years ago.

“I’m very worried about the water coming off the mountains and that the city fills up like a sink,” said Jacmel Mayor Hugues Paul.

Large amounts of rainfall will cause mudslides and runoff that can block roads, or worse.

“We watch those storms every single time they come near because Haiti is so vulnerable,” said Amy Parodi, a spokeswoman for the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision.

Elsewhere, storm preparations were under way.

Officials in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, said three shelters would open Saturday for people who did not want to ride out the storm in their homes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said it will be up to organizers of the Republican National Convention to decide the fate of the event.

While Isaac’s path remains uncertain, the latest tracking information shows it crossing near the western Florida Keys and staying west of Tampa and not reaching hurricane strength until sometime Sunday or Monday.

A five-day projection shows Isaac making landfall near Pensacola, Florida, by early Wednesday.

Even though most of the state may catch a break, officials are taking the threat seriously.

“It has been a fortunate seven years since Wilma hit Florida,” National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said, referring to the last hurricane to make landfall in the state. “The luck is going to run out at some point.”

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