Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Tropical Storm Isaac strengthens as it nears Haiti

Story highlights

  • Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to make landfall early Saturday
  • Isaac forces some flight cancellations
  • A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Florida Keys
  • Isaac poses a danger to Haitians still recovering from the deadly 2010 earthquake

Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened slightly as it churned toward Haiti on Friday, threatening an already vulnerable nation with gale-force winds, pounding rain and the potential for life-threatening floods.

The storm is expected to make landfall early Saturday morning, though its ferocity was already being felt late Friday as heavy rains and high surf pounded Haiti's southern peninsula ahead of the storm's arrival.

"It's going to be a brutal night," said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

By late Friday night, Isaac -- with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph -- was 65 miles southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, and moving at 14 mph, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

Rainfall accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are expected, with maximum amounts of 20 inches possible over the island of Hispaniola.

"Our experience in Haiti clearly indicates that it is not the storm or the winds, it's the rain that causes the problems," said Sinan Al-Najjar, the Red Cross' deputy country representative in Haiti. "When rain comes, landslides and flash floods do happen in Haiti. We are trying to focus on which are the flood areas, which are the risk areas."

    Hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by a devastating 2010 earthquake continue to live in camps.

    With floodwater comes the risk of another outbreak of cholera, an infection of the large intestine that causes severe diarrhea.

      Just Watched

      Isaac making Haiti landfall

    Isaac making Haiti landfall 02:03
    PLAY VIDEO

    "After floods, it's going to be almost certain that we see increases in cholera cases," Al-Najjar said. "We already witnessed that with the few weeks of rain we had in April. We had spikes due to daily rain. If a flood comes, we know certainly cholera is going to be an issue."

      Just Watched

      Haiti: Racing to relocate people

    Haiti: Racing to relocate people 00:57
    PLAY VIDEO

    Many of the Haitians living in camps had no idea that a storm was coming, CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman reported from Port-au-Prince. Not until a translator told them that Isaac was nearing did people in the streets know of the storm's approach or that the government had opened some shelters.

      Just Watched

      Sean Penn talks about risk for Haiti

    Sean Penn talks about risk for Haiti 06:25
    PLAY VIDEO

    Residents of one tent community said they were staying put with their belongings and would ride out the storm.

      Just Watched

      Tropical storm Isaac nears Haiti

    Tropical storm Isaac nears Haiti 01:38
    PLAY VIDEO

    Haitian President Michel Martelly told CNN that he and his prime minister were traveling from camp to camp to encourage people to go to shelters, but they acknowledged not everyone would be able get out.

    "Those who are very vulnerable, they are moved out of these camps. And the ones who are remaining behind are those who are stronger to fight this situation," he said.

    Meanwhile, in Jacmel, a town in southern Haiti, there were no signs of hurricane preparations. The area suffered heavy flooding several years ago during another storm.

      Just Watched

      Tampa RNC storm scenario

    Tampa RNC storm scenario 03:46
    PLAY VIDEO

    "I'm very worried about the water coming off the mountains and that the city fills up like a sink," said Hugues Paul, the mayor.

      Just Watched

      Haiti in hurricane danger

    Haiti in hurricane danger 01:26
    PLAY VIDEO

    Isaac threatens to bring more destruction, cholera to Haiti

    Large amounts of rainfall will cause mudslides and runoff that can block roads, or worse.

    "We watch those storms every single time they come near because Haiti is so vulnerable," said Amy Parodi, a spokeswoman for the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision.

    The agency has met with the government in previous summers to discuss contingency plans for major storms, and pre-positioned relief items are available, she said.

    iReport: Time-lapse video of Isaac affecting Dominican Republic

    The storm is expected to move near or over Cuba on Saturday and approach the Florida Keys on Sunday. Tropical storm warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Cuba, while a tropical storm watch was issued for the Florida Keys.

    Officials in Monroe County, in far south Florida, said three shelters would open Saturday for people who did not want to ride out the storm in their homes. They did not order a visitor evacuation as Isaac is forecast to cross the Florida Keys as a tropical storm, not a hurricane.

    Isaac, which has already forced airline companies to cancel a couple dozen flights, should weaken as it moves through Haiti and Cuba.

    The storm also poses a risk to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, which is set to start next week. Gov. Rick Scott said it will be up to organizers to decide the fate of the event.

    While Isaac's path remains uncertain, the latest tracking information shows it crossing near the western Florida Keys and staying well west of Tampa, and not reaching hurricane strength until sometime Monday. A five-day projection shows Isaac making landfall near Pensacola, Florida, by early Wednesday.

    Even though most of the state may catch a break, officials are taking the threat seriously.

    "It has been a fortunate seven years since Wilma hit Florida," National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said, referring to the last hurricane to make landfall in the state. "The luck is going to run out at some point."

    Bracing for Isaac? Share your images with CNN iReport, but stay safe.

        Hurricane season 2012

      • A mother learns that her newborn is part of a hospital evacuation. Facebook posts from a member of the HMS Bounty turn ominous. A man worries about the wind and rain, but another force of nature hits home.
      • In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, a storm that ripped so much apart, people have come together to provide help and hope.

        Tourists become volunteer rescue workers. The connected provide power outlets and Wi-Fi. Performers lift spirits. Photographers preserve images. Doctors work overtime to keep hospitals running and patients alive.
      • Despite a mangled phone screen, volunteer Candice Osborne is able to quickly respond to the needs of Superstorm Sandy victims with the help of social media.

        It has been in operation only since October 30, but the Facebook page for "Giving back to those affected by Sandy" has a longer timeline than most Facebook members.
      • Steph Goralnick

        It's important to remember that even as the effect of Superstorm Sandy recedes from the news, there are still devastated areas that are without electricity, heat or hot water.
      • Americares volunteers help clean out flood damaged homes in Queens, New York during Operation "Muck-Out"

        Our AmeriCares "Operation Muck-Out" team immediately got to work, ripping out the interior walls and removing the insulation until only wooden beams were standing.
      • exp point harlow murray sandy_00013211

        Ashley Murray became the first female president of Liberty Industrial Gases and Welding Supplies Inc. in Brooklyn. But now the family history Murray was charged with preserving is at risk of ending after Superstorm Sandy.
      • Jeannette Van Houten and other residents of Union Beach, New Jersey, have found family photos such as this one scattered after Superstorms Sandy. They want to return them to their rightful owners.

        The adage says "a picture is worth a thousand words," but when Leeann Lewandowski happened upon a photograph of her late mother on Facebook after her home was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy, she was speechless.