Storm Leaves 20 Dead In Dominican Republic

A man takes photos of the waves and clouds produced by tropical storm Noel at the seafront of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007.
Tropical Storm Noel brought heavy rain and flooding to the Dominican Republic on Monday and officials said at least 20 people had died.

At least 20 other people were reported missing from the storm, which lashed Hispaniola, the island the country shares with Haiti, said Ramon Franco of the Dominican emergency services agency.

Noel was expected to drop as much as 20 inches of rain on Hispaniola before heading northwest toward the Bahamas.

Schools and shops closed throughout the Dominican Republic and many roads were impassable. Communication was cut between many small towns and the capital and authorities said the death toll could grow.

Noel was expected to drop as much as 20 inches of rain on Haiti and the Dominican Republic throughout the day before heading northwest toward the Bahamas. There were no immediate reports of casualties in Haiti.

The combination of a building area of high pressure over the U.S. Northeast and the tropical storm were creating a very strong and persistent Northeasterly wind along the southeast U.S. coastline "and it's only going to get worse over the next few days," says CBS News meteorologist George Cullen. There will be very rough seas with dangerous rip currents from the shores of the Carolinas to the eastern beaches of Florida. It's "a bit too soon yet to know for sure if it'll remain east of Florida."

Dominican authorities said at least 600 people had been evacuated as the storm touched off landslides, flooded rivers and pushed storm surges onto Santo Domingo's seaside boulevard.

Swollen rivers also forced evacuations in Cabaret, a town north of Port-au-Prince where floods killed at least 23 people earlier this month, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of Haiti's civil protection agency.

It could take days for Haitian authorities to learn of flooding in some parts of the country, where communications are limited.

Haiti is still recovering from floods that killed at least 37 and sent more than 4,000 people to shelters earlier this month.

Mountainous terrain weakened the storm overnight, but Noel still had sustained winds of about 45 mph as it passed near Haiti's northwestern coast, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

At 2 p.m. EDT, Noel's poorly organized center was about 30 miles northeast of Cuba's eastern tip, forecasters said. Maximum sustained winds were about 45 mph.

It was heading northwest at roughly 15 mph. The center of Noel will be moving near or over the southeastern and central Bahamas or northeastern Cuba later Monday and Monday night.

A long-term forecast has the storm passing through the Bahamas and gradually turning east, away from the U.S. coastline.