Tropical storm Elsa, 5th named storm, threatens Caribbean

Tropical Storm Elsa has formed over the tropical Atlantic on Thursday. (KSAT)

MIAMI – Officials in St. Vincent and the Grenadines warned people to plan for possible evacuations as the tiny islands hit recently by massive volcanic eruptions prepared 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.

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The storm was located about 260 miles (420 kilometers) east-southeast of Barbados 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 50 mph (85 kph) and was moving west-northwest at 26 mph (43 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 Grenada, the southern and western coasts of Haiti, part of the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

The government of Barbados said it was suspending public transportation and closing vaccination sites and businesses including gas stations by Thursday night, while St. Vincent expected to so by Friday morning.

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 is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on Saturday. The storm was then expected to move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on 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.