Hurricane Elsa barrels towards Dominican Republic, Haiti

July 3 (Reuters) – Hurricane Elsa was moving rapidly towards Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday after cutting power and toppling trees in the Caribbean island nations of Barbados and St. Vincent a day earlier.

Elsa, which strengthened to a hurricane on Friday, was about 175 miles (282 km) southeast of the Dominican island of Isla Beata at 8 a.m. EST, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). Elsa was blowing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kph).

The southern coast of the island of Hispaniola, which is home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and Jamaica were under hurricane warning, the NHC said. A hurricane watch covered Cuba’s eastern provinces.

Conditions were likely to deteriorate in the coming hours, the NHC said. Elsa’s forward speed was expected to decrease later on Saturday while maximum wind speeds would stay about the same until Sunday or Monday, when Elsa was expected to be near or over Cuba.

Crews working at a collapsed condominium building in Surfside, Florida were keeping an eye on Elsa in case winds add to dangers for emergency crews.

The storm on Friday blew roofs off homes, toppled trees and sparked flooding in Barbados then pounded St. Vincent with heavy rain and winds of 85 mph (140 kph). read more

Elsa’s storm surge was expected to raise water levels by as much as 1 to 4 feet (30 to 122 cm) above normal in some areas. Puerto Rico could receive up to 5 inches (13 cm) of rain, the NHC said.

In August, Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane, killed 31 people in Haiti and four in the Dominican Republic.
Reporting by Cassandra Garrison in Mexico City; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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