Tropical Storm Grace is expected to become a hurricane Wednesday as it bears down on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, two days after making landfall in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm’s heavy rains brought flooding that hampered recovery efforts from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country Saturday.
“That heavy rainfall can really lead to life-threatening flooding and mudslides and potentially urban flooding as well,” Michael Brennan, the branch chief of the center’s hurricane specialist unit, said Monday.
The center said in an advisory on Tuesday night that the storm was about 50 miles west of Montego Bay, Jamaica, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Grace’s center was forecast to move away from the western coast of Jamaica on Tuesday evening and then near the Cayman Islands by late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
The storm will then approach the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico late Wednesday or early Thursday, when it will likely strengthen into a hurricane, according to the center, which said that a hurricane warning was in effect for parts of the peninsula. A hurricane watch is in effect for the Cayman Islands.
A tropical storm watch was lifted for the Haiti coast Tuesday afternoon, while Jamaica and parts of Cuba were under a tropical storm warning.
The storm could dump an additional 1-2 inches of rain in Haiti, with isolated totals of up to 15 inches, the center said Tuesday. Heavy rainfall could lead to flooding and mudslides, it added. Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, parts of Cuba and the Yucátan Peninsula could get 3-6 inches of rain, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches.
Parts of the Cayman Islands could see water levels rise by 3-5 feet because of the storm surge, along with “large and destructive waves,” the center said.
Grace’s arrival in Haiti intensified the need for help in recovering from the earthquake.
Videos circulating on social media showed heavy rain pummeling towns and villages overnight and Monday, bringing the risk of flash floods and landslides.
In one video, a man could be seen making his way through muddy water that had flooded a street up to his waist Monday, when the storm struck. Another video showed floodwaters rushing across a street and inundating nearby homes.
“It’s totally turned into a river,” a man is heard saying in the video, which appeared to have been shot in the city of Jacmel, on Haiti’s southern coast.
Grace is the seventh named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, following several days of floods and power outages unleashed this week by Fred, the sixth named storm of the season. Fred dissipated Saturday, but its remnants redeveloped into a tropical storm Sunday and made landfall Monday afternoon in the Florida Panhandle. It was later downgraded to a tropical depression as it moved inland across southern Alabama on Tuesday morning.
A third Atlantic storm, Henri, formed Monday afternoon as a tropical storm off the East Coast of the United States, becoming the eighth named storm of the hurricane season. It was tracking 135 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, where a tropical storm watch was in effect.
While it is not uncommon for there to be several active weather systems at once during hurricane season, forecasters said, it is somewhat unusual to have three with tropical storm watches or warnings for land areas at the same time.
“It’s a busy period here,” said Brennan of the hurricane center. The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
A major United Nations climate report released in August warned that nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have likely become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. In early August, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be an above average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.
Matthew Rosencrans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.