Tomas Heads To Haiti, May Get Stronger

Tomas weakened to a tropical depression Wednesday but is expected to gather some steam as it churns over the southern Caribbean and makes its way toward earthquake-devastated Haiti.

The official National Hurricane Center forecast track shows Tomas is likely to make landfall in southwestern Haiti on Friday as a tropical storm, which would have sustained winds between 39 mph (63 kph) and 73 mph (117 kph) with higher gusts. There is a small chance it could regain hurricane strength, according to forecast maps.

Public health officials are especially concerned because of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed more than 300 people and could worsen with the coming storm.

Tomas could dump enough rain for accumulations of 5 to 10 inches over much of Haiti, some of which could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, the hurricane center said.

Haiti's president and prime minister held an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss evacuations of people living in coastal communities, the United Nations said Wednesday.

And the United States has deployed the amphibious naval ship Iwo Jima to provide humanitarian support, the U.S. Southern Command said.

As of 2 p.m. ET, Tomas had winds of 35 mph (55 kph) and was centered about 315 miles (505 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and about 245 miles (395 kilometers) south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, the center said. It was moving west-northwest at 6 mph (9 kph).

A turn toward the northeast is expected over the next two days. A tropical storm watch is in effect in Jamaica. People in the Dominican Republic also are urged to monitor Tomas' progress. "