PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Tropical Storm Noel formed over the Caribbean Sunday and forecasters warned the slow-moving system could send flash floods gushing down stripped hills in Haiti before it heads on to Cuba.

The strengthening storm poses a serious threat to impoverished Haiti, which is still recovering from floods that killed at least 37 and sent more than 4,000 people to shelters earlier this month.

Noel, the 14th named storm of the Atlantic season, had sustained winds of about 60 mph and was expected to strengthen further, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was moving north-northwest at roughly 5 mph, which would bring the storm’s center near the southeastern peninsula of Haiti late Sunday. A tropical storm warning was issued for the entire Haitian coastline and parts of the Dominican Republic.

Forecasters said Noel, with tropical storm force winds fanning 115 miles from its center, could dump 12 inches of water on the island of Hispaniola, southeastern Cuba and Jamaica.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch were issued for southeastern parts of Cuba, including the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay holding some 330 detainees.

“I don’t envision the storm will have any tangible impacts on detention operations as the modern facilities have been constructed to withstand high winds and significant rainfall,” said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

A long-term forecast carries the storm across Cuba and toward the Bahamas.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Noel’s center was roughly 125 miles south-southeast of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, according to U.S. forecasters.

Swollen rivers 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.

“We are working hard to make sure everything goes well and that every citizen knows a cyclone is coming,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Flood concerns on Saturday forced three U.S. senators to cut short a trip to Haiti, where they’d planned to survey damage caused by earlier storms.

“It was just raining like mad,” Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa told The Associated Press before flying out of Port-au-Prince Saturday evening. Senators Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Tennessee’s Bob Corker were also visiting.

Widespread deforestation and poor drainage mean that even moderate rains can cause devastation in Haiti, where thousands of people build ramshackle homes in flood plains.

In 2004, the Caribbean nation took a deadly hit from Tropical Storm Jeanne, which triggered flooding and mudslides that killed more than 2,000 people and destroyed thousands of acres of fertile land. That storm later strengthened into a hurricane.

The Dominican Republic’s national meteorological office told ships to stay in port Sunday, while Puerto Rico also posted flash flood warnings.

Rivers and creeks in the southern part of the U.S. territory burst their banks over the weekend, forcing three families to abandon their homes in Salinas, Nazario Lugo Burgos, chief of Puerto Rico’s disaster agency, said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.