SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Slow-moving Tropical Storm Cristobal lashed parts of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands with heavy rainfall and white-crested surf after swollen rivers swept at least three people away on the Caribbean island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
In the Dominican Republic, a man drowned when he tried to drive his pickup truck across a rushing river in Hato Mayor, a province northeast of the capital of Santo Domingo. Juan Manuel Mendez, the country’s emergency operations director, said the death was due to the “regrettable recklessness of this driver.”
In neighboring Haiti, authorities were looking for two residents reported swept away late Saturday by a river that burst its banks in the western port town of Saint Marc. “We’re still looking for the bodies,” said Luckecy Mathieu, a local civil protection coordinator.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Cristobal may strengthen into a hurricane on Wednesday while over the open waters of the Atlantic. The storm’s center was expected to curve away from the U.S. East Coast.
Many residents in the sparsely populated southeastern Bahamas and the tiny British Caribbean dependency of the Turks and Caicos Islands hunkered down as Cristobal’s rains pelted windowpanes.
Capt. Stephen Russell, head of the Bahamas’ emergency management agency, said there had been no reports of damage by late Sunday morning. Air traffic to the southeastern Bahamian islands had not been suspended, but sea vessels were advised to remain in port, he said.
By Sunday afternoon, Turks and Caicos Premier Rufus Ewing advised residents to remain indoors as much as possible since the island chain south of the Bahamas was still experiencing heavy rains and “extensive flooding in low-lying areas,” especially on Middle Caicos and North Caicos islands.
“The inclement weather is expected to linger for another 48 hours and the flooding is expected to worsen as a result,” Ewing said in a statement.
Cristobal, which formed as a tropical depression over the Turks and Caicos Islands on Saturday, was the fourth depression of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The tropical storm had sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph) and was located about 145 miles (240 kilometers) east-northeast of the Bahamas’ Long Island early Sunday afternoon.
The slow-moving storm was tracking north at about 7 mph (11 kph). U.S. forecasters said there should be a decrease in forward speed over the next couple of days, meaning Cristobal’s center is expected to move near to or east of the central Bahamas through Monday.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands and for the southeast and central Bahamas, with forecasters saying it could bring up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain to the islands through Tuesday.
Before strengthening into a storm, it had downed several trees and power lines on Puerto Rico, leaving more than 23,500 people without power and 8,720 without water. There were a handful of reported landslides.
Police said in a statement that a small bridge collapsed Saturday in the central town of Barranquitas, isolating some 25 families in the area. No one was injured.