Havana, Jul 5 (EFE).- Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall just after midday on Monday at a spot on Cuba’s Zapata Peninsula, on the southern coast of the western province of Matanzas, the Meteorology Institute (Insmet) reported.
Elsa is moving at 22 kilometers (13.5 miles) per hour with maximum sustained winds of 100 kph ((62 mph) and is predicted to remain over Cuban territory for about eight hours dumping heavy rain on the island’s western and central zones.
Forecasts indicate that the storm will leave Cuba Monday evening heading northwest after passing over the provinces of Artemisa, La Habana and Mayabeque, where a weather “alarm” has been declared by the Cuban Civil Defense authorities.
The eye of the storm moved over Cuba exactly at Cienaga de Zapata, the most southern municipality in Matanzas, from where reports of heavy rain and storm surge that were expected to cause flooding in the area were received.
According to the latest report from Insmet, at 3 pm local time, the central portion of Elsa was located some 130 km southeast of Havana.
In the coming 12 to 24 hours, forecasts are that the storm will continue moving toward the northwest across Matanzas and could weaken slightly as it passes over Mayabeque.
In Havana, authorities implemented a series of pre-established measures in keeping with the state of “alarm,” such as evacuating people living in areas prone to flooding in low-lying areas along the city’s coastline.
Since midday on Monday, businesses have been closed, bank services have been suspended and vehicles – includig public buses – have been prohibited from moving around the capital, and only people tasked with dealing with the impact of the storm have been allowed to move freely.
In the island’s central region, torrential rains has been reported, mainly in the south, with a maximum of 160 millimeters (6.3 inches) registered at the Jibacoa reservoir in the mountain municipality of Manicaragua, in Villa Clara province.
In the eastern part of the island, Monday afternoon was partly cloudy with isolated heavy showers and electrical storms after the close passage of Elsa over the sea to the south of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba and Granma provinces, which were in the process of getting back to normal, according to Civil Defense.
Cuban authorities have asked members of the public to keep themselves informed about the storm via the media or official social network accounts and to follow all recommended measures and guidelines.
Elsa – which during its transit through the Lesser Antilles briefly intensified into the first hurricane of this year’s Atlantic storm season – has been turning gradually to the northwest.
On Sunday, the storm passed near the southern coast of eastern Cuba, where it affected agriculture and electric power service, according to preliminary information supplied by state-run media.
This year’s Atlantic storm season – which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30 – is expected to be more active than normal, with a prediction of several hurricanes in the area and an 85 percent probability that Cuba will be hit by at least one of them.
The last time that a large hurricane affected Cuba was in 2017, when Irma moved along the northern coast from east to west killing 10 people and causing material losses of $13.2 billion to housing, infrastructure, agriculture and livestock raising, according to official figures.