Elsa continued to move through the Caribbean Sea Saturday toward the island of Hispaniola, which the Dominican Republic and Haiti share, both nations issued red alerts, warning residents to anticipate massive amounts of rains and winds.
Authorities temporarily banned all flights and boats from the ports and airports in the southern region of Haiti.
“The passage of this hurricane along the south of the country can be very dangerous,” acting Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said, warning Haitians in vulnerable areas to be prepared to evacuate and to avoid crossing rivers. “It’s coming with a lot of rain, a lot of wind.”
Elsa was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm as of 11 a.m. ET as it continued its march toward the southern coast of Hispaniola after battering the eastern Caribbean islands of Barbados, St. Lucia and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Though it had weakened from a Category 1, the storm’s trajectory was still a concern as Haitians braced for passage close to the country’s southern region later Saturday into Sunday, then moving toward Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on Sunday.
The impact of the storm in the eastern Caribbean, especially in Barbados, has raised concerns about the increasing impact of climate systems in the Caribbean, which is now seeing the formation of hurricanes much earlier. This is already the fifth storm system of the Atlantic season.
Elsa, which was upgraded from a Tropical Storm to a Category 1 Hurricane early Friday morning, was not a direct hit on Barbados. Yet it took out all of the electricity, damaged at least 586 roofs and led to the collapse of at least 20 homes, according to preliminary assessments, the head of the Emergency Disaster Management Agency said.
“The Barbados Meteorological Service said the eye of the storm crossed about 20 miles to the south of the island but because of the extent to which the hurricane force winds extended,” there was widespread damage, Elizabeth Riley said during a press conference.
“There have been other impacts from other systems in a similar way where the eye would have passed off shore,” she added. “Climate change is no longer a conversation that is futuristic but climate change is happening right now and we anticipate seeing further changes in the future.”
While damage assessments are ongoing, initial reports show that half of Barbados’ population was still without power Saturday morning, while in neighboring St. Lucia, residents were also dealing with blackouts, disruption to the drinking water supply and “significant roof damage” to homes and government apartments from the hurricane force winds.