Tropical Storm Lili loses punch in Caribbean

from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 25 Sep 2002
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Lili weakened rapidly on Tuesday as it marched through the eastern Caribbean on a course for Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.

In Barbados, hit by Lili on Monday, officials said 139 homes were badly damaged. Some parts of the island of about 275,000 people were still without electric power or telephone service, and fallen tree branches and debris littered the streets of the capital, Bridgetown.

Lili, the 12th tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June to November, lost much of its punch as maximum winds fell from 70 mph (110 kph) to just 40 mph (65 kph) in a few hours, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Forecasters said Lili's future was uncertain and it could still become a hurricane by the time it approaches Haiti on Thursday. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph (119 kph).

A tropical storm watch, alerting residents to possible storm conditions within 36 hours, was in effect on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti.

Haitian authorities issued a Level 1 alert, the lowest on the nation's three-tiered emergency warning system. Officials told residents to stock up on food and pay attention to radio and television reports on the storm. Fishers were told not to venture out to sea.

"The predictions now are extremely changeable," said Jacques Samaile of the Haitian Meteorological Society. "But we want to be ready for the worst. We don't want to take any chances."

Haiti, an impoverished nation stripped of much of its forest cover, is especially vulnerable to bad storms, which can cause flash floods and mudslides.

At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT), the center of Lili was about 370 miles (590 km) south-southeast of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, at latitude 13.7 north and longitude 67.5 west, the hurricane center said.

It was moving west at about 10 mph (16 kph) and was expected to turn on a west-northwest course on Wednesday. That would put it near the western side of Hispaniola by Thursday, and then the storm could brush over the tip of eastern Cuba by early on Friday.

Tropical Storm Isidore was, meanwhile, edging northward in the Gulf of Mexico after pummeling the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT), it was about 385 miles (615 km) south of Louisiana and was expected to strengthen again before hitting the U.S. Gulf coast early on Thursday.

Sustained winds of up to 60 mph (95 kph) were reported.

A hurricane watch was in effect along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast from Cameron, Louisiana, to Pascagoula, Mississippi. A tropical storm warning was in effect east of High Island, Texas, to Destin, Florida.

A third system, Tropical Storm Kyle, was heading west-southwest through the Atlantic, but was some 740 miles (1,185 km) east-southeast of Bermuda and far from land.

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