Tropical depression brings downpours to eastern Cuba, heads toward Florida Keys

By Will Weissert, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tropical depression soaks Cuba, heads for Florida

HAVANA — Downpours from a tropical depression soaked eastern Cuba on Wednesday, washing out some roads but sparing the crumbling buildings of the capital as the system pushed north toward Florida.

The depression had sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was expected to strengthen, possibly reaching tropical storm force before reaching southeastern Florida by evening, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

By Wednesday morning, the storm’s center was about 230 miles (375 kilometers) south-southwest of Miami and it was moving north-northeast at 9 mph (15 kph).

Cuba’s chief meteorologist, Jose Rubiera, said the storm rolled across a swath of the west-central island overnight and its center had moved north of the island by dawn. Bands behind its core were continuing to bring heavy rains, however.

Rubiera said wind associated with the storm was not a threat, but that provinces from Matanzas east all the way to Guantanamo would continue to face downpours throughout the day.

“The important factor remains the rain,” Rubiera said.

State-controlled television showed images of rain flooding roads and highways, especially around the eastern city of Santiago, but there were no reports of damage. Far to the west in Havana, it wasn’t even raining and there was no flooding.

Communist Cuba has a well-trained civil defense force praised for its fast response to natural disasters, one that often uses mandatory evacuations to move people to safety in many parts of the island. Authorities often order thousands of evacuations ahead of even moderate storms — but there were no such orders reported for the depression.

The depression was also felt Tuesday south of Cuba in the Cayman Islands, where meteorologists said more than four inches (10 centimeters) of rain fell in just 12 hours, causing flooding. Public schools closed and government workers from low-lying areas were allowed to leave early.

Chief Grand Cayman Meteorologist John Tibbetts said 5- to 7-foot (1.5- to 2-meter) waves were forecast through Wednesday night and warned boaters to remain ashore.

Associated Press Writer Tammie Chisholm in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, contributed to this report.

will not be displayed