Officials in Haiti issued an orange alert (meaning there is a moderate to high risk of hazardous conditions) for the northern departments on Tuesday, September 19, for Hurricane Maria. As of 11:00 (local time) on Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria was located over Puerto Rico, approximately 60 km (30 mi) west of San Juan, and moving northwest at 19 km/h (12 mph), with maximum sustained winds of up to 225 km/h (140 mph). According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Maria is expected to pass just to the east and northeast of the Dominican Republic beginning late on Wednesday and throughout the day Thursday.
Officials in Haiti are expecting heavy rain and flooding in the coming days, but predict that the country will not experience a direct hit by the storm. Flooding triggered by heavy rain on Friday, September 15, and Saturday, September 16, has already caused significant damage in the Artibonite, Centre, Nord, and Nord-Ouest regions. Additional flooding and landslides are possible in northern departments. Damaging winds and strong swells are also expected in the area.
Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, continues to move through Puerto Rico. Various Caribbean islands are still recovering from devastation brought by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that struck earlier this month. Although Haiti was not hit directly by Hurricane Irma, widespread flooding and heavy rains were reported along the northern coastline.
Additionally, parts of southern Haiti – especially the Sud, Nippes, and Grand'Anse departments – are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane that hit the country in October 2016. A total of 370,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, including 285,000 in rural areas, and hundreds of people were killed. Additional flooding between April 23 and May 2 of this year killed at least ten more people across Haiti. Significant social unrest broke out following Hurricane Matthew due to the government’s perceived poor response to the disaster.
Individuals present in Haiti are advised to follow all instructions issued by the local authorities, to keep abreast of weather forecasts and alerts, and to avoid coastal and mountainous areas (risk of flooding and landslides).
In the event of flooding, remember that driving or walking through running water can be dangerous – 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult – and that floodwater may contain wastewater or chemical products; all items having come into contact with the water should be disinfected and all foodstuffs discarded.