PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Tropical Storm Isaac moved toward Hispaniola, a crossing expected today that will prove painful for Haiti, where hundreds of thousands remain homeless in the earthquake-shattered capital.
Almost three years after the country's worst natural disaster, Isaac loomed on the horizon — more potential misery for a poor nation where floods have killed scores over the past decade.
"They tell us to remain vigilant and prepare to evacuate. But where do you go?" said Anilia Paul, 54, a mother of six, standing under a tattered structure that doubles as a welcome center and classroom in the Tapis Vert (Green Rug) tent city. "We have 300 families living inside here. They have no place to go."
Forecasters are expecting Isaac to strengthen before it hits southern Haiti sometime this afternoon.
Though storms in the past have significantly weakened or dissolved over Haiti and Cuba, National Hurrican Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said forecasters don't see that happening with Isaac.
"The models are pretty consistent this thing is going to survive," he said
For Haiti, Isaac's rains are what will add to the misery of some 400,000 refugees of the 2010 earthquake who still live in makeshift tent cities around the capital. The danger from flash floods and mudslides is even greater outside the capital, where crumbling hillsides stripped of vegetation have made much of the country's often poorly built homes vulnerable to floods and lethal landslides.
Storms in 2008 left hundreds dead and thousands homeless. In 2004, Tropical Storm Jeanne killed about 3,000 people in Gonaives when three rivers spilled over.
Forecasters are predicting from 8 to 12 inches of rain across Haiti, with up to 20 inches in some spots.
Haiti's government mobilized disaster committees and warned the entire country could be affected.
"Do not panic," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said. "Panic can create more problems. It's best to remain calm."
Isaac appeared to have spared the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico serious damage, but authorities feared there still could be flooding,
In Cuba, the news agency Prensa Latina reported civil defense agencies in the eastern part of the country have been activated and are in the process of evacuating people from low-lying areas and protecting "economic and social" resources.
Tropical Storm Joyce also formed Thursday, but forecasters expected it to curve into the Atlantic, with only Bermuda potentially in its path early next week.