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04 August 2011

Tropical Storm Emily Set to Deluge Caribbean


Emily looks strong in this image taken by NASA's GOES satellite on Aug. 2, but remains poorly organized. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Tropical Storm Emily, which formed yesterday (Aug. 1), is poised to bring heavy rains to the Caribbean, particularly to the mudslide-prone country of Haiti.

The tropical cyclone (the generic name for tropical storms and hurricanes) is swirling in the waters between, with winds up to 45 mph (70 kph).

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti (the two halves of the island of Hispaniola), while a tropical storm watch is in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands.The center of Emily is expected to be at Hispaniola on Wednesday.

Rains on Hispaniola are expected to total between 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters), but in some spots could reach up to 10 inches (25 cm). Such large amounts of rain falling in a relatively short amount of time can cause flash floods and soak soils in mountainous terrain, potentially causing mudslides. Haiti, still reeling from last year's earthquake, is particularly threatened by these conditions because so much of its land has been stripped of trees, which can keep soaked soils in place and prevent mudslides.

There is a small chance Emily could become a hurricane, which would make it the first in the Atlantic basin for the 2011 hurricane season. Four tropical storms -- Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Don -- have preceded Emily so far this season, which began on June 1.

Typically the most active part of the season comes in August and September.

The season is expected to be a doozy, with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast predicting between six to 10 hurricanes, three to six major hurricanes (those with winds of up to 111 mph (179 kph) or higher) and 12 to 18 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes receive names).

The 2010 season was one of the busiest ever, with 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic — the second-highest number on record, tied with 1969 — and 19 named storms, a tie with 1887 and 1995 as the third-busiest on record. An average Atlantic season produces 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. The busiest season on record remains 2005, which saw 28 named storms, including Hurricane Katrina.

- OurAmazingPlanet