October 06, 2016

Post-Hurricane Devastation in Hispaniola

Hurricane Matthew quickly strengthened into the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin since 2007 and left widespread destruction in Hispaniola. Haiti, in particular, faces a humanitarian crisis after Matthew hit the impoverished island nation with force.

The storm came onshore on the western tip of the country's Tiburon Peninsula early Oct. 4, bringing with it sustained winds of 233 kph (145 mph) and rainfall of 38-51 cm (15-20 inches). While neighboring Dominican Republic was spared a direct hit, heavy rainfall still caused significant flooding in the central, southern, and western parts of the country and left four people dead.

Widespread transport and utility outages will almost certainly continue across Hispaniola for days; many of the hardest hit communities are located in remote areas that are completely cut off from aid due to road closures and bridge collapses.

As of early Oct. 6, little information was available on conditions in southern Haiti due to slow response efforts following the collapse of the La Digue Bridge near Petit Goave; the bridge was a vital connection between the Tiburon Peninsula and the capital. Life-threatening flash flooding occurred in coastal communities of southwestern Haiti.

Major damage was reported in Les Cayes and surrounding areas. Haiti's Civil Protection Department (DPC) has estimated that over 350,000 people will be in need of assistance; more than 15,000 displaced residents remain at emergency shelters throughout the country. DPC said that the official death toll in Haiti exceeded 100 as of midday Oct. 6, though this number is likely to increase as response efforts continue.

Overland access to some badly affected areas might not be possible for several days, and road and bridge damage may seriously complicate efforts to deliver aid to vulnerable populations. Several organizations have pledged to aid Haiti, and international foreign governments may deploy military assets in Haiti to support relief efforts.

Matthew Headed Towards Florida, US

As of Oct. 6, Hurricane Matthew was moving through the central Bahamas, with its sights set on Floridas eastern coast. The most recent forecast track brings Hurricane Matthew within miles of Florida's Space Coast as a Category 4 storm. It remains unclear if the center of circulation will make landfall in eastern Florida; however, hurricane conditions are likely along the Florida, Georgia, and Carolina coastlines through Oct. 9.

Authorities have declared states of emergency and evacuations along the southeastern US coastline in preparation for widespread wind damage, flash flooding, destructive storm surge, and prolonged utility outages. If Matthew comes onshore in Florida, it would be the first major hurricane to make landfall in the US since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.