Tropical Storm Odette lashed the Dominican Republic with torrential rains, prompting thousands to flee their homes and killing at least two people before it dissipated Sunday over the Atlantic.
Odette, THE first named storm on record to form in the Caribbean Sea in December — after the official hurricane season — brought fast-rising waters that flooded neighborhoods, forcing the evacuation of more than 10,000 Dominicans, and felled trees in Haiti.
In San Cristobal, west of the Dominican capital, 58-year-old Ondina Guzman drowned early Sunday when floodwaters rushed into her riverside house, where she was sleeping along with a 25-year-old son, witnesses said.
Neighbors said residents broke open the locked door and helped pull the son from waters 5 feet deep, but the monther died in the hospital.
“She was in the house when it began to rain and we asked if she wanted to go to another house, but because it appeared there was no danger she decided to stay,” said another son, Abelardo Guzman, 42, who left the house earlier to have drinks with friends.
A 41-year-old Dominican, Jose Manuel Disla, was killed when he was riding a motorcycle on the outskirts of Santo Domingo and fell into a swollen creek Saturday night, police said.
Up to 7 inches of rain
The storm dumped up to 7 inches of rain in southern areas, said Pedro Garcia Marion, an official in the Dominican weather office.
The storm crossed the Dominican Republic overnight, and by 11 a.m. local time, its remnants were merging with a cold front about 150 miles east of Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
A U.S. reconnaissance plane found the storm had become a low pressure system. It was moving to the northeast at about 25 mph, still carrying winds of about 45 mph with higher gusts.
The hurricane center discontinued its storm advisories, and storm warnings were dropped. As sunshine returned, evacuated residents returned home. About 875 people remained in emergency shelters Sunday evening, said Jose Luis German, spokesman of the emergency commission.
Odette was unusual because it formed Thursday, four days after the official end to the Atlantic hurricane season. It was packing 65-mph winds when it hit land on the Dominican south coast Saturday night.
In the neighborhood where Guzman died, people waded through mud-filled homes as they began to clean up. Many lost all their belongings. Some had furniture in the sun drying.
Water up to her neck
“I had to lift my motorcycle to the roof to save it,” 17-year-old Luis Cordero said.
Laura Pereyra, who was eight months pregnant, was caught by waters that rose to her neck in minutes.
“I realized that the water was reaching the furniture and I tried to remove a few things, when suddenly the house filled with water and some neighbors had to help me out,” she said.
Other storms soaked the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico three weeks ago, setting off mudslides and floods that killed at least seven. More than 2,000 Dominicans were evacuated then, and some remained homeless.