Monday, October 29, 2007

Hurricane - Haiti OCT

MIAMI (Reuters) - The 14th named storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, Noel, formed on Sunday in the Caribbean and was expected to drench impoverished and vulnerable Haiti with potentially deadly rains, forecasters said.

The storm, which had top sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, was moving slowly toward Haiti's southwestern peninsula and was then expected to head toward southeastern Cuba, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

While the storm's track was highly uncertain, the center forecast it was likely to make a sharp turn to the northeast near the end of the week and head out over the Bahamas into the Atlantic rather than into the Gulf of Mexico, where critical oil and gas facilities are located.

It was also unclear whether the storm would have an opportunity to strengthen into a hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph because that would depend on whether it stayed over warm water or spent more time over land.

By 2:15 p.m. EDT, Noel was located around 150 miles south-southeast of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, and it was moving to the north-northwest at 5 mph, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

Storms alerts were posted for Haiti, parts of southeast Cuba, and for Jamaica.

The hurricane center said potentially dangerous amounts of rain -- 8 inches to 12 inches with isolated downpours of up to 20 inches -- could be expected over parts of Hispaniola, southeast Cuba and Jamaica.

Tropical storms do not pose much of a threat to developed countries, but their rains can be life-threatening in poor areas. Haiti in particular is vulnerable to deadly flash floods and mudslides because most of its forests have been chopped down to make charcoal.

Around 3,000 people died in the port city of Gonaives in 2004 when Tropical Storm Jeanne passed to the north of Haiti on its way to hit Florida as a hurricane.

The six-month hurricane season runs until the end of November. The peak of the season, in September, was unusually quiet but the development of a La Nina weather phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific has the potential to make late-season storms more likely than in other years, experts say.

So far the season has spawned four hurricanes, two of which became potentially catastrophic maximum-strength Category 5 storms before slamming into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and Central America. - Source

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