Tropical Storm Noel Steers Rough Surf Toward Florida

Residents of southeastern Florida were advised early Wednesday to keep an eye on the progress of Tropical Storm Noel, a killer storm which could pass close to the state in the next few days as it hammers the Bahamas.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Noel's top sustained winds were near 40 mph, down from 60 mph a day earlier, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm has crashed through the Caribbean, creating floods and mudslides that have killed at least 22 people.

It was moving north-northwestward near 6 mph and approaching the northern coast of Cuba, the center said. But it was expected to turn away from Florida soon and speed into the open Atlantic.

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Residents of a waterfront condominium in South Palm Beach were urged to evacuate Tuesday after pounding surf destroyed a retaining wall that had been damaged earlier this month in another storm.

But most of Noel's rains and winds were expected to assail the Bahamas. Tropical storm-strength winds extended up to 175 miles north and east of Noel's center. Above-normal tides and heavy rains were expected in its path into the Atlantic.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for several Cuban provinces and a tropical storm warning was issued for the central and northwestern Bahamas.

Noel was expected to produce up to 10 more inches of rain over Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Up to 10 inches of rain were also possible over eastern Cuba and the Bahamas.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for several Cuban provinces and a tropical storm warning was issued for the central and northwestern Bahamas.

The storm cut a destructive path across the island of Hispaniola. Because of difficulties reaching remote areas of the island, there was uncertainty over death toll figures, with emergency officials reporting between 22 and 36 people dead.

A Dominican Republic emergency commission spokesman revised the death toll in the country Tuesday evening to at least 30. The official, Luis Luna Paulino, did not release specifics of the deaths, and earlier in the day he acknowledged miscalculating a previous toll.

Almost 12,000 people were driven from their homes and nearly 3,000 homes were destroyed, while collapsed bridges and swollen rivers have isolated 36 towns, Luna said.

In neighboring Haiti, at least six people died, including two women washed away by a river in the town of Gantier, said U.N. peacekeeping mission spokesman Mamadou Bah. Red Cross volunteers said a 3-year-old boy drowned as his family tried to rescue him from a raging river in the neighborhood of Duvivier.

In Cuba, the government said about 1,000 homes had suffered damage, 2,000 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas, and schools were closed for several thousand students.

Bahamian authorities closed most government offices, and lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations in Nassau, the capital.

At 8 a.m., Noel's center was 65 miles north-northwest of Camaguey, Cuba, about 195 miles south-southwest of Nassau, Bahamas, and about 270 miles south-southeast of Miami. Some strengthening over the ocean could occur as it pulls away from Cuba.