Slow-moving Noel inflicting more damage
Tropical Storm Noel, which has caused death and destruction in the Caribbean far greater than most hurricanes, continued to move slowly toward the Bahamas Thursday, with its rains still soaking Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Reports from several Caribbean news sources indicate the death toll has surpassed 80 and property damage from flooding has been extensive, though Noel is not generating the destructive winds of a hurricane.
Meanwhile, ocean and air freight transportation services have been disrupted, with steamship lines specializing in the Bahamas and the Caribbean islands holding off on Bahamas sailings Thursday and adjusting schedules to the more easterly islands.
About 30 flights between Miami International Airport and the storm-impacted islands were cancelled, said Max Fajardo, Miami-Dade Aviation Department deputy aviation director. However the airport remained open and even the ocean shipping terminals in the Caribbean have continued to operate, albeit with fewer vessels arriving.
With the Florida Coast on the edge of the cone-shaped area where tropical storm conditions could occur the U.S. Coast Guard continued to keep the ports of Miami, Port Everglades and Palm Beach under a level three, 'Condition Whiskey,' storm warning and continues to prohibit vessels form using the Port Everglades anchorage in the shipping channel entrance offshore from the port entrance.
Aside from the anchorage order, the warning had not stopped Port Everglades operations. Port officials have recommended that terminal operators should limit container stacking to four high until the storm moves out of the area.
After stalling over Cuba for two days with a northward movement of only two miles per hour, Noel moved over water and was moving at 6 miles per hour, the Hurricane Center said. The center of the storm was expected to move today over the eastern Bahamas. But with tropical force winds extending out for 150 miles this morning and bands of heavy rain extending some 200 miles from the center, the storm continued to do damage to flood ravaged areas, especially on the east side of the storm.
Damage to property and inland infrastructure on Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti) and potentially in part of the Bahamas could impact the economy and the need for supplies and project-type shipments for months to come.
In the Dominican Republic, 41 people were confirmed dead and another 20 were missing. Mudslides have cut off roads to many villages, forcing authorities to use helicopters and ferries controlled by the Dominican Navy to assess the damages and bring supplies. Authorities were also monitoring a propane tanker grounded off San Pedro de Macoris; there were no leaks reported.
There were 24 reported deaths in Haiti from flooding and slides, with another five people missing, while one woman was killed in a storm-related landslide in Jamaica.
In Cuba, thousands were forced to flee to shelters when reservoirs started to overflow and flood surrounding areas, according to reports in the Miami Herald and Cuban daily newspaper Juventud Rebelde. Cuba has experienced heavy rains in the late summer and fall, so reservoirs were 90 percent full, and authorities knew in advance there would be overflows as Noel dropped more than 10 inches of rain on the island. ' Jim Dow