Tropics: Flash Flood Risk for Haiti, Hope for Cuba

June 1, 2011; 4:20 AM ET
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"We could be talking... a foot of rain over several days, depending on where thunderstorm complexes form."


A slow-brewing tropical low pressure area could bring both needed rain and flooding to Haiti and other islands in the northern Caribbean in days ahead.

Weak steering currents will translate to not only a slow-moving, poorly organized low pressure area, but also the risk of slow-moving torrential downpours.

We could be talking inches of rain on certain days, with potential for a foot of rain over several days, depending on where thunderstorm complexes form.

The island of Hispaniola is made up of the Dominican Republic and earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where hundreds of thousands remain homeless, living under tarps, tents, or in shanties.

The central and western Caribbean are favored areas for tropical development during June.

While explosive development of a tropical system is not expected in this case at this time, any organization, even poor, could focus tremendous rainfall in the region.

The broad area of non-impressive showers and thunderstorms in the region now is likely to be first enhanced by a weak tropical wave invading from the east. It is this feature, plus a squeeze of dry air to the north, that could enhance spotty downpours.

While much of the region would welcome reasonable rainfall, following the long dry season from the winter, the risk of flooding downpours and mudslides is there, given even weak development in coming days.

According to the BBC, Cuba is facing its worst drought in 50 years, a situation that has been ongoing for some two years now, leading to dwindling reservoirs, water rationing, and the risk of crop failures.

Under the always-hot tropical sun, Havana has received less than 6 inches of rain since the start of November 2010.

It is possible the pattern over the next couple of weeks could yield some needed rainfall for part of Cuba. However, it would take more than a few days of heavy rain or weeks of normal rainfall this summer to replenish the supply of water.

While a bit of rain has reached into part of Cuba in recent days, and episodes of drenching rain have impacted Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands earlier in May, folks in Florida are still waiting for the arrival of the rainy season.

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