Tropical Storm Franklin Lashes Dominican Republic, Displacing Hundreds



Tropical Storm Franklin lashed the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and flooding that displaced hundreds of people, cut off several communities and left hundreds of thousands of homes without power or potable water, officials said on Wednesday. At least one person was killed, the Civil Defense said.

As the storm moved north and away from the coast of the Dominican Republic Wednesday evening, tropical storm warnings remained in effect for the country’s southeastern and northern coasts and Turks and Caicos, meteorologists said. A warning for the southern coast of Haiti was lifted.

As of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Franklin had maximum sustained winds of about 40 miles per hour and was moving north-northeast at 13 m.p.h., according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm displaced about 350 people, many of whom were in shelters, the Emergency Operations Center of the Dominican Republic said at a news conference on Wednesday evening. More than 500 homes were damaged and more than 2,500 roads were affected, leaving six communities cut off, officials said. Nearly 350,000 homes were without power, and more than 1.6 million did not have potable water.

A 33-year-old man, Carlos Marino Martínez. was killed when he was swept away by floodwaters in the city of San Cristobal, the Civil Defense said. Two women were hospitalized following a landslide in San Cristobal, officials said.

Officials closed schools and government agencies, and at least 25 of the country’s 31 provinces were under red alert, which indicates a high likelihood of damage to property, infrastructure and the environment, The Associated Press reported.

Three of the country’s international airports closed late Tuesday and reopened at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, though some flights were canceled.

Parts of Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, were expected to receive between six and 12 inches of rain, with isolated totals of up to 16 inches through Thursday. Farther east, Puerto Rico was expected to receive up to an inch of rain through Thursday, the Hurricane Center said.

Strong and variable winds at higher altitudes have kept this storm disorganized and prevented it from strengthening into a hurricane. The storm could weaken further when it interacts with the rugged terrain of Hispaniola. However, once it crosses the island and re-emerges over the Atlantic, it is expected to strengthen, with the potential to become a hurricane this weekend.

Franklin is the fourth named storm to form in two days. Tropical Storm Emily was downgraded on Monday to a post-tropical cyclone after forming the day before, and Gert was also short-lived. Tropical Storm Harold formed early Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in Texas in the morning.

Franklin is the seventh tropical cyclone to reach tropical storm strength this year.

The Hurricane Center announced in May that it had reassessed a storm that had formed off the northeastern United States in mid-January, determining that it was a subtropical storm and thus making it the Atlantic’s first cyclone of the year.

The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near-normal” amount, forecasters said. On Aug. 10, NOAA officials increased its estimate to 14 to 21 storms.

There were 14 named storms last year, coming on the heels of two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (There were a record 30 named storms in 2020.)

This year features an El Niño pattern, which started in June. The intermittent climate phenomenon can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world, and it typically impedes the number of Atlantic hurricanes.

In the Atlantic, El Niño increases the amount of wind shear, or the change in wind speed and direction from the ocean or land surface into the atmosphere. Hurricanes need a calm environment to form, and the instability caused by increased wind shear makes those conditions less likely.

(El Niño has the opposite effect in the Pacific, reducing the amount of wind shear.)

At the same time, this year’s heightened sea surface temperatures pose a number of threats, including the ability to supercharge storms.

That unusual confluence of factors has made making storm predictions more difficult.

There is consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.

Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce.

In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means that a named storm can hold and produce more rainfall, as Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.

Researchers have also found that over the past few decades storms have slowed, sitting over areas for longer.

When a storm slows over water, the amount of moisture the storm can absorb increases.

When a storm slows over land, the amount of rain that falls over a single location increases; in 2019, for example, Hurricane Dorian slowed to a crawl over the northwestern Bahamas, resulting in a total rainfall of 22.84 inches in Hope Town during the storm.


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