SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Officials in St. Vincent and the Grenadines warned people to plan for possible evacuations as the tiny islands hit recently by massive volcanic eruptions prepare for potential flooding and landslides from Tropical Storm Elsa, which whirled toward the eastern Caribbean on Thursday.
Elsa is the earliest fifth named storm on record, beating out last year’s Eduardo which formed on July 6, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
The storm was located about 680 miles (1,095 kilometers) east-southeast of the Windward Islands and is expected to pass near or over portions of the Windward Islands or the southern Leeward Islands on Friday. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and was moving west at 28 mph (44 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A tropical storm watch was in effect for Guadeloupe and Grenada.
Elsa was expected to strengthen in upcoming days and move into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday and Friday night, and pass near the southern coast of Hispaniola, which was shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on Saturday. The storm was then expected to move near eastern Cuba by early Sunday, though the forecast so far calls for it to remain below hurricane force.
The storm was forecast to produce rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) with maximum totals of 8 inches (20 centimeters) inches on Friday across the Windward and southern Leeward Islands, including Barbados. The rain could unleash isolated flash flooding and mudslides.