Tropical Storm Erika struck Dominica in the eastern Caribbean yesterday, 27 August 2015, bringing with it torrential rain which has caused flooding and landslides, leaving at least 3 dead and many more still missing.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) said yesterday that preliminary assessments indicate that “there has been significant rainfall in Dominica that has resulted in flooding and landslides”.
CDEMA said that, as of late yesterday 27 August 2015, 3 bodies had been recovered and a further 25 to 30 people are presumed missing in the north-eastern and south-eastern areas of Dominica.
In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said rescue operations are currently the main priority. Venezuela has provided 2 helicopters to help with the search and rescue operations.
“Our primary concern at the moment is for the preservation of life in Dominica,” said the Prime Minister. “We are now going to be focused on a search-and-rescue mission. We will focus on infrastructure after.”
Buildings and infrastructure have suffered severe damage and the runway at Douglas-Charles Airport is strewn with flood and storm debris. The airport is closed as a result.
The winds brought by Strom Erika are considered light for a Tropical Storm. However the rainfall amounts have been significant, resulting in the deadly floods and landslides. According to the Prime Minister, such severe flooding is considered to be unusual in Dominica, even during the Atlantic storm season. In a statement made through Social Media, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said yesterday:
We are living the effects of climate change. Years ago, flooding in Dominica was something unheard of.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report that 320.6 mm of rain was recorded at Canefield Airport, near the capital Roseau, in a 24 hour period between 27 and 28 August 2015.
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Response
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission said in a statement yesterday that it is engaging with regional and international agencies to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the effects of tropical storm Erika on Dominica.
The directorate of the OECS Commission said it is:
“very concerned about the situation in Dominica and is communicating with Heads of Government of other OECS Member States, the international donor community and organisations to ensure the best possible actions. As small island states we have common vulnerabilities to climatic issues and weather systems which impact on all our Member States and although limited in our own resources we are strengthening our response to Dominica through dialogue towards a coordinated response from agencies such as National Emergency Management Orgainsations, UNDP, CEDEMA, ECLAC and USAID”.
Storm Erika Heads Towards Puerto Rico
Storm Erika formed on 24 August, 2015 and is the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.
As of 2.00pm yesterday, 27 August, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency reported that Tropical Storm warnings remained in effect for Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Tropical Storm watches have been issued for the south-eastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has discontinued the Tropical Storm Warning for that country.
Storm Erika is expected to sweep through the Caribbean, pass off the north-eastern coast of Puerto Rico early on 28 August, and possibly onwards to the Dominican Republic, Hati, Cuba and southern Florida by next week.
South Florida Prepares for Possible Floods
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD ) said that it is actively monitoring Tropical Storm Erika and preparing the regional flood control system to move water from the storm as needed, including lowering canal levels and readying pumps.
The regional SFWMD system consist of $13 billion of infrastructure, including 2,100 canals, 2,000 levees, 607 water control structures, 625 culverts and 70 pump stations.
Even if Storm Erika doesn’t hit Florida directly, it could still bring large amounts of rain in a short space of time. Adding to the flood risk brought by Storm Erika, high tides are also expected in Florida this weekend.