Authorities have warned residents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic of possible landslides and flooding as Tropical Storm Franklin approaches.
The storm was expected to make landfall on Wednesday on the southern side of Hispaniola, the island shared by the two countries, the US National Hurricane Center said in an advisory on Tuesday morning.
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It could cause heavy rains of 25cm (10 inches) in both countries, the agency said, with some areas receiving as much as 38cm (15 inches).
Franklin brought winds of up to 85 kilometres an hour (50 miles per hour) as it moved through the Caribbean on Tuesday and was expected to maintain the same strength as it moved towards Hispaniola.
The storm is of particular concern for Haiti, where poor infrastructure magnifies the impact of flooding, landslides and other disasters. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew devastated the country, killing an estimated 546 people and leaving 1.4 million others in need of humanitarian aid.
11 AM EDT Tuesday, August 22 Key Messages for Tropical Storm #Franklin. Heavy rainfall and flooding are possible across Hispaniola and Puerto Rico during the next couple of days.https://t.co/3332XaSfvh pic.twitter.com/jNH58XkpZS
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 22, 2023
Even less severe storms have proven devastating for the country, which is grappling with a slew of political, public health and security crises. The situation has left thousands of people internally displaced and government agencies largely in disarray.
In June, at least 42 people died in flooding from heavy rains in Haiti.
In the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, Jerome Jean-Pierre, who sells cold sodas from a wheelbarrow, said he heard about Franklin on the radio and planned to stay indoors. He said he hoped the storm would not impact Haiti like Hurricane Matthew did.
“That was really horrible,” Jean-Pierre, 46, told The Associated Press news agency. “I saw a lot of people washed away.”
Franklin was not expected to become a hurricane until after passing over Hispaniola. The rugged mountainous terrain in the Dominican Republic is expected to weaken the storm somewhat.
Franklin was expected to linger over the island for about a day before moving over to the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday.
In the Dominican Republic, officials said they would close schools, government offices and businesses by midday on Tuesday and reopen them on Thursday.
Nearly half of the Dominican Republic’s 31 provinces were under red alert as the storm approached.
The Ministry of Public Works, Public Utilities and Digital Economy announced that it had dispatched 3,000 workers to 14 provinces to prepare for Franklin. The government said the country’s dams should be able to withstand the heavy rainfall because their water levels were currently low.
Between 14 to 21 named storms are forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season this year, which runs from June 1 to November 30, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
On August 10, the agency updated its forecast from “near normal” to an “above normal” outlook.
Of the predicted storms, six to 11 could become hurricanes with two to five of them possibly becoming major hurricanes, NOAA said.
Franklin is the seventh Atlantic storm of the season to reach the tropical storm level.
Puerto Rico was also expected to get about 10cm (4 inches) of rain as Franklin moved through the area, according to the agency, while tropical storm conditions were also possible in the Turks and Caicos Islands.