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17519: (Chamberlain ) Storm (later story) (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 5 (AP) -- Tropical Storm Odette bore down on Haiti's
south coast Friday, threatening to unleash mudslides and flash floods that
often prove fatal in the impoverished country.
   Odette, the first recorded tropical storm to brew in the Caribbean Sea
in December, is expected to carry torrential rain to the Dominican
Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
   Odette could reach Hispaniola early Saturday and drop up to 10 inches of
rain that could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,
especially in Haiti's deforested mountains, the U.S. National Hurricane
Center warned.
   In 1994, Tropical Storm Gordon caused mudslides that buried at least 829
Haitians. More recently, nearly 30 died in September during floods caused
by heavy rain in St. Marc, about 45 miles northwest of the capital.
   "We're used to this sort of thing. We all hope and trust we'll be
spared," said Erick Danies, a government official in the southern coastal
town of Jacmel. "There's no panic in town."
   At 4 p.m. EST, the storm was packing 50 mph winds with higher gusts and
was expected to strengthen a bit before it reaches the mountains of Haiti,
the hurricane center reported. Tropical storm force winds extended up to
145 miles.
   Odette was located about 225 miles southwest of the Dominican Republic's
south coast, and churning northeast at about 12 mph.
   "This is the first time ever that we've had a named storm in the
Caribbean during December," said Dave Roberts, a meteorologist at the
hurricane center in Miami. "It is extremely unusual but the conditions have
been favorable with light winds and warm temperatures." Hurricane season
ended Nov. 30.
   Roberts said Odette was likely to gain strength but would not become a
hurricane. Storms become hurricanes when their winds reach 74 mph.
   Radio broadcasts warned Haitians to evacuate low-lying areas on the
south coast and to stock up on food and other supplies.
   "We're ready. We've done what is necessary to prepare," said Jean
Raymond, 30, an elementary school teacher in Jacmel. "My students are calm
because they know what to do."
   Odette formed Thursday in the western Caribbean Sea, kicking up heavy
rain and strong gusts.
   A tropical storm warning was posted for Haiti, and the Dominican
Republic extended its storm warning eastward to Isla Saona, an outlying
island on the southeastern coast.
   Miguel Campusano, a forecaster from the National Weather Office in the
Dominican Republic, said he expected the central-western part of the
country to be hardest hit.
   Jamaica's government discontinued a storm warning Friday, while a storm
watch was in effect for the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos