Hurricane Elsa is hurtling Saturday toward Haiti and the Domincan Republic, raising fears of flooding and mudslides in those countries before slamming Cuba and Florida.
Haitian authorities used social media to alert the population about the hurricane, urging those living near water or mountain sides to evacuate.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the Category 1 storm was located about 635 kilometers east-southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic, and was moving west-northwest at 48 kilometers per hour with maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour.
Elsa is expected to weaken to a tropical storm after striking Cuba, and the Hurricane Center's long-term forecast shows it bearing down on Florida as a tropical storm by Tuesday morning. Other tracking models, though, would have the storm blowing into the Gulf or up along the Atlantic Coast.
Hurricane warnings are in effect Saturday for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the border with Haiti; the southern portion of Haiti from Port Au Prince to the southern border with the Dominican Republic; and in Jamaica beginning Sunday.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Santiago de Cuba.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Haiti north of Port Au Prince and the south coast of the Dominican Republic, east of Punta Palenque to Cabo Engano.
The hurricane center said the outer rain bands associated with Elsa will affect Puerto Rico with rainfall totals of up to seven centimeters, with amounts as much as 12 centimeters possible through Saturday. This rain could lead to isolated flash flooding and minor river flooding, along with the potential for mudslides, the center said.
Across portions of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica, rainfall of 20 centimeters with higher isolated maximum amounts possible Saturday into Sunday, possibly leading to scattered flash flooding and mudslides.
The Hurricane center said there is an increasing risk of storm surge, wind and rainfall beginning Monday in the Florida Keys. The impacts could be felt northward along the Florida peninsula through Tuesday. However, the center emphasizes there is still significant uncertainty about the Florida portion of its forecast.
Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.