Having spent its fury on Haiti, Tomas was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday but continued on its wet and blustery path as it slogged past the Turks and Caicos Islands and into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
As of 11 a.m. ET Saturday, Tomas was about 115 miles (185 kilometers) north-northeast of Grand Turk Island, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. The storm was moving northeast at 16 mph (26 kph) and carried maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph).
It is expected to further weaken during the next couple of days, the Hurricane Center said.
In Haiti, a nation still grappling with the effects of a killer earthquake and a deadly cholera outbreak this year, Tomas destroyed houses and turned some streets into rivers. The storm also dumped more than 10 inches of rain in the Dominican Republic.
In Leogane, west of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, water several feet deep rushed through the town’s streets.
Tomas passed within about 140 miles (230 kilometers) of Port-au-Prince.
“We were expecting something perhaps a little larger, but it’s still quite significant,” said Francois Desruisseaux, an emergency team leader with CARE in Haiti.
The threat of ongoing rain remains, though,as does the possibility of the spread of waterborne diseases, Desruisseaux said.
Mudslides also remain a threat because many of the nation’s mountains have been stripped of vegetation, which means rain can flow downhill relatively unimpeded, said CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf.
“We could see mudslides a week after the storm has passed,” Wolf said.
Aid workers were already struggling to keep up with the cholera outbreak, which has killed nearly 450 people and hospitalized about 7,000. The bacterial disease causes diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to deadly dehydration within hours.
January’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed 250,000 people and left another 1 million homeless. Many of those Haitians have been living in tent camps and aid workers had been working in recent days to move the residents to safer housing, which was difficult to find.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic could still get an additional inch or two of rain, according to the Hurricane Center.
“Isolated maximum storm total amounts of 15 inches are possible over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides over mountainous terrain,” the weather agency said.
Higuey, in the Dominican Republic, has already seen more than 10 inches of rain within 24 hours, the Hurricane Center said.
The Turks and Caicos Islands could see an additional 2 to 4 inches of rain.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and part of the Dominican Republic’s northern coastline, the Hurricane Center said.