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Major storms strike Caribbean region

Floods destroy hundreds of homes in Puerto Rico, which has seen wettest July ever recorded in rainy season, and in Cuba.

Last Modified: 03 Aug 2013 12:21
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Storms have damaged houses and caused about $1.5m in losses in Puerto Rico [AP]

A series of major storms have hit Puerto Rico over the last few weeks, destroying hundreds of homes, sweeping away cars and leaving tens of thousands of people without power.

The US island territory is used to tropical weather, but this year Puerto Rico has seen the rainiest July ever recorded, with 350mm so far drenching the capital San Juan.

People fled homes and cars as water rushed through doors and windows.

Rising floodwaters stranded drivers on highways. Some commuters were forced to use kayaks and paddle boards.

The storms have severely damaged about 500 houses and caused about $1.5m in losses, according to initial estimates, Carmen Yulin Cruz, San Juan's mayor, said.

Richard Angwin, Al Jazeera's meteorologist, said: "The rain which fell on July 18 was a truly exceptional event and it skewed what was otherwise an unremarkable month’s rainfall across the island.

"The 238mm which fell on the 18th was almost double the average rainfall for the entire month. Regardless, the island has received two-and-a-half times its usual July rainfall and the rainy season does not really begin to tail off until December.

"The concern in the next week or two, while the ground is still saturated, is that Puerto Rico is vulnerable to huge amounts of rain which could fall in any tropical storms or hurricanes and the season is likely to become much more active in that period."

The territory is just over two months into a seven-month rainy season, and it is already the second wettest start of the year for the region, even though no major tropical storm or hurricane has hit.

Nearly 1270mm of rain have fallen so far, and more is likely on the way.

Other wet years

Remnants of Tropical Storm Dorian were projected to move through the Caribbean, north of the island, by Monday or Tuesday.

The deluge follows hard on a string of other wet years.

The rainiest year on record was 2010, when 2273.3mm fell.

The island's totals have been trending upward, in part because of warmer ocean temperatures and frequent occurrences of the weather phenomenon known as La Nina, which leads to a more active hurricane season, according to the National Weather Service.

Nearby Cuba has been drenched as well.

Authorities reported that June was the wettest on record for the western part of the island.

In the first six days of that month alone, 421.6mm of rain fell, 188 percent of the historic average for the full month, with isolated accumulations as high as 558.8mm. 

Hundreds of homes were flooded along with croplands, highways and tobacco leaf-curing buildings in the western province of Pinar del Rio, known as the cradle of Cuba's tobacco industry.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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