Haitian Flood Deaths over 1,000; Bahamas on Alert as Jeanne Nears; Ivan Poses New Threat

September 23, 2004

As the floods caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne slowly recede, Haitians are discovering even more devastation and loss of life. More than 1,000 persons have died in the northern city of Gonaives, and another 1,200 are still missing. Authorities fear the death toll may eventually exceed 2,000.

The BBC reported that “Many residents have been forced to take shelter on rooftops, as bloated bodies float along the streets.” There are increasing threats of water born diseases – typhoid and cholera Many refugees have no food. Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latorture told the BBC that in addition to the risk of an epidemic, “there is no electricity, the morgues are not working.” Aid workers have been forced to bury the bodies of the victims in mass graves as quickly as possible in order to prevent the spread of infections.

A call has gone out for aid donations and emergency help for the stricken country, one of the world’s poorest, which is ill equipped to cope with the disaster. The UN World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 175,000 people are without food, water and electricity.

While hopefully Haiti will escape further ravages from the rash of storms in the Caribbean, other areas may not be so lucky. No less than four active systems are currently under surveillance. The most dangerous threats are from Jeanne, which is currently nearing the Bahamas, and a regenerated Ivan, which is currently roiling the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Karl continues its course up the middle of the Atlantic, and Tropical Storm Lisa is so far well away from any landmass.

Jeanne, now a category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph (160 km/hr) with higher gusts, is currently located near latitude 25.5 north-longitude 69.5 west or about 475 miles (765 km) east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm is moving toward the west near 3-mph (6 km/hr), and the NHC expects some increase in forward speed later today.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Central Bahamas, including Cat Island, The Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador. The NHC warned, however, “a hurricane watch may be required for the Northwestern Bahamas later today,” meaning that the storm could strike the region within the next 24 hours. The NHC also warned that “dangerous surf and rip currents, caused by large swells generated by Hurricane Jeanne, are possible along the southeastern U.S. coast and the Northwest and Central Bahamas for the next few days.” By next week, however, if the storm stays On its present track, it could hit the U.S. mainland between Florida and North Carolina.

The NHC has also begun to monitor a new threat posed by Ivan, which began to regenerate in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. Although no longer the savage hurricane it once was, Ivan is still a tropical storm to be reckoned with. The southern remnant of the original system packs maximum sustained winds near 40 mph (64 km/hr) with higher gusts. The NHC said, “some increase in strength is possible before landfall.” Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 85 miles (140 km) from the center.

Ivan is currently moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph ((24 km/hr), and “this general motion is expected to continue today and tonight,” said the latest NHC bulletin. “A Tropical Storm warning remains in effect for a portion of the Gulf of Mexico coast from the mouth of the Mississippi River Louisiana westward to Sargent, Texas. At 4 a.m. CDT the poorly-defined center of Tropical Storm Ivan was located near latitude 28.2 north-longitude 91.6 west or about 180 miles southeast of the upper Texas coast.

The NHC expects Ivan to “cross the coast in the warning area within the next 24 hours.” Water levels have been running .5 to 2 feet above normal tide levels along the northwest Gulf of Mexico, and the NHC expects Ivan to “generate an additional 1 to 3 feet above these existing water levels. Therefore, water elevations of 2 to 4 feet above normal are expected near and to the east of where the center makes landfall. In addition the new Ivan still has plenty of water. “Rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches, with isolated higher amounts, are possible near the path of Ivan,” the NHC indicated. It also warned: “tornadoes are possible over southern Louisiana today.”

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