Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Flooding Rain, Mudslides Threaten Haiti this Week

By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist

Heavy rain will fall on Haiti this week, raising the possibility of flooding and peril for those left homeless by the devastating earthquake this past winter.

Makeshift housing in the form of tents are all that stand between Mother Nature and hundreds of thousands of people. A number of victims still have no shelter at all.

Deforestation practices of the past and unstable hillsides following the quake have left some of the terrain very vulnerable to mudslides and flash flooding.

An average of 5 to 10 inches of rain is forecast to fall on the region into the weekend. However, local amounts will be higher in the mountains, where runoff will be excessive.

Waves of low pressure traveling along a stalled front, combined with heating of the day will allow clusters of heavy showers and thunderstorms to form over Haiti and other nearby island nations in the Caribbean.

First of two rainy seasons under way

Haiti has a two-pronged rainy season that spans the six months of the year when the sun is the strongest.

The first spike in rainfall is during April and May when the jet stream is still strong enough to provide extra energy for stalled fronts in the region and allows a tropical flow of moisture to develop.

A strong easterly wind blowing downhill suppresses rainfall slightly during midsummer in Port-a-Prince.

Drenching tropical systems roll through the area mainly in August, September and early October. The storms can unleash unreal amounts of rain and powerful winds on the mountainous island nation.

A second disaster looms hurricane expert Joe Bastardi expects a top 10 hurricane season as far as the number of storms are concerned this year.

Typically Haiti is impacted by several tropical depressions, storms and/or hurricanes during a season.

Even one such tropical system has the potential for disaster and great loss of life in the months ahead, given the hundreds of thousands of people still living without adequate shelter and in precarious areas such as hillsides.

High winds during a tropical storm or hurricane would destroy the makeshift refugee camps and would cause a considerable amount of dangerous airborne debris.

Saturated, unstable hillsides would simply give way.

Flooding could claim the lives of hundreds, if not thousands.

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