Hurricane Elsa churned through the Caribbean Friday, bringing powerful winds and the potential for storm surges and heavy rain.
The category 1 storm packed maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour as it moved northwest near St Vincent and the Grenadines in the eastern Caribbean around midday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The center said Elsa could bring a tidal surge of as much as three feet above normal in the Windward Islands—the far eastern chain that includes Barbados and St. Lucia—and up to four feet further west on the southern coast of Hispaniola, which is made of up Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Rainfall, storm surges and strong winds from Elsa could affect the Florida Keys and parts of the Florida peninsula early next week but this depends on how the storm behaves this weekend when it hits large Caribbean islands, the NHC said.
Hurricane-related weather would be bad news for the Florida town of Surfside, near Miami, as it tries to dig out a collapsed condo building in search of survivors and bodies.
Elsa is forecast to move near the southern coast of Hispaniola on Saturday and Haitian authorities expressed worry Friday that they lack emergency supplies like food and water.
A good part of the emergency resources the government did have were used in another crisis: the evacuation of thousands of people in Port-au-Prince because of raging gang violence.
Many of these people are staying in gyms, schools or other public buildings and some of the supplies that had been earmarked for the hurricane season have been used on these evacuees, said Jerry Chandler, director of the Haitian civil protection agency.
As the hurricane approached, authorities declared a weather alert Friday.
Authorities want to ship emergency supplies to the southern coast, which is most threatened. But heavily armed gangs control part of the only road leading from the capital to the south and they do not let everything through.
To reach these threatened areas, Chandler said, “we have to go through red zones,” referring to gang-held territory.
In 2016 Hurricane Matthew killed more than 500 people in southern Haiti and caused nearly $2 billion in damage.
By Sunday, Elsa is forecast to move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba, the US center said.
A major winter storm blanketed parts of the middle of the country with snow that was forecast to continue into late Tuesday in some areas, disrupting traffic and closing some coronavirus testing sites.
The National Weather Service said at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow is expected across most of an area stretching from central Kansas northeast to Chicago and southern Michigan. Parts of southeast Nebraska and western Iowa could get more than three times that much by Tuesday morning.
The weather service forecast the light snowfall that began around sunset Monday in northern Illinois was expected to get heavier overnight, with accumulation totaling about 3 to 6 inches by early Tuesday. Meteorologist Bett Borchardt forecast snowfall could total up to 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) or more before it ends Tuesday evening.
The last comparable snowfall in the area occurred in November 2018, when 8.4 inches (21.34 centimeters) of snow fell.
A winter weather advisory was issued Monday for northwest Indiana, where the weather service forecast 3 to 5 inches of snow by the time the storm leaves the area Tuesday. A mix of freezing drizzle was expected in the southern parts of the region.
The break in the relatively mild winter in northern Illinois may mean the rest of the season could be more active, said weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein.
“Now, more active does not necessarily mean more snow,” Friedlein told the Chicago Sun-Times. “If we stay on the milder side of things, that could be more rain or more mixed precipitation.”
The city of Chicago on Monday warned residents that hazardous conditions are likely to impact Tuesday morning commutes and some power outages are possible due to the wet nature of the snow and gusting winds. City officials have dispatched about 280 salt spreaders to clear the city’s main streets and have created warming centers in libraries and park facilities for residents who have no heat because of the loss of power to their homes.
By late Monday, 120 flights had been cancelled at O’Hare and 48 flights at Midway international airports, with 15-minute delays at both facilities.
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince declared a snow emergency late Monday, placing restrictions on where vehicles can park and prohibiting the pushing of snow from private property onto city streets. In addition, Prince closed city-owned buildings and facilities until Wednesday.
Several coronavirus testing sites in Nebraska and Iowa were closing early Monday because of the snow. More than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow had already fallen in parts of eastern Nebraska by Monday evening.
National Weather Service meteorologist Taylor Nicolaisen said 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of snow was likely between York, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, and that it has been at least 15 years since that area received more than a foot of snow in a single storm.
“This is historic snow,” said Nicolaisen, who is based near Omaha, Nebraska.
Many schools and businesses closed Monday as the storm moved across the region. In western Iowa, Missouri Valley Superintendent Brent Hoesing reworked the lyrics of the 1970s hit “I Will Survive” to tell students in his district to a foot of snow fell in Southern California’s mountains, making driving conditions hazardous. Interstate 5 was shut down Monday in the Tejon Pass between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley. Wind, snow and ice also forced the closure of State Route 58 through the Tehachapi Pass.
Until recently, California had been experiencing significantly dry weather accompanied by relentless wildfires. A band of clouds suggested more rain could fall Tuesday in areas north and south of San Francisco Bay, bringing the threat of possible flash floods and landslides in areas scarred by the fires.
Forecasters at the Sacramento-area National Weather Service office predict an abundance of snow in the Sierra Nevada between late Tuesday and Friday that will make travel through the mountains difficult.
A major winter storm buried northern Arizona in snow on Monday while sending flurries to the outskirts of Las Vegas and Phoenix.
And most of Nevada was bracing for another series of powerful winter storms that could bring rare snowfall to the Las Vegas Strip late Monday or early Tuesday and several feet to the mountains above Lake Tahoe with winds up to 60 mph (96 kph) by Thursday.
Up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow fell Monday in the Reno-Sparks area, where up to 10 inches (25 cm) is possible and up to 20 inches (50 cm) in the Sierra foothills above elevations of 5,000 feet (1,828 meters) on the edge of town by Thursday.
Three to 6 feet (91 cm to 1.8 meters) of snow is forecast in the Sierra above elevations of 7,000 feet
Storm blankets Midwest with heavy snow, travel disruptions (2021, January 25)
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