Elsa cut through Cuba on Monday, bringing gusty winds, torrential rains, flooding, electrical outages and some property damage. Cuba evacuated 180,000 people on Sunday before the storm; in Havana, the capital, a fleet of state buses ferried passengers from rickety buildings to shelters. But Elsa weakened as it moved across the island on Monday, passing about 20 miles east of Havana, and the capital was mostly calm on Tuesday.
Elsa has been blamed for the deaths of at least three people elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency reported one death on Saturday in Soufrière, St. Lucia. And in the Dominican Republic, a 15-year-old and a 75-year-old woman died in separate episodes on Saturday when walls collapsed on them in heavy rain, the country’s Emergency Operations Center said in a statement.
And at least one boat overturned in the storm. On Monday night, a vessel carrying 22 people from Cuba capsized about 26 miles southeast of Key West, the Coast Guard said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that 13 people were rescued, with nine still missing.
“These ventures are dangerous and can often lead to casualties, especially during tropical storms,” said Cmdr. Jacob McMillan of the Coast Guard. “The seas are unpredictable and unforgiving.”
Elsa is the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. The first, Ana, formed on May 23, making this year the seventh in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
Last month, Tropical Storm Claudette brought heavy rains, gusting winds and tornadoes to several states across the American South, destroying dozens of homes. It was blamed for the deaths of 14 people — 10 of them children — as it moved from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. Claudette was closely followed by another tropical storm, Danny, which made landfall over South Carolina in late June before dissipating over Georgia.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to experience stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms may drop, because factors like stronger wind shear might keep weaker storms from forming.