A compact Hurricane Beryl, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, was yesterday on a path that would carry it over the Lesser Antilles at the end of the weekend and into the eastern Caribbean, bringing a new threat to islands still rebuilding from last year’s storms.
A hurricane watch was issued for Dominica, which was battered by Hurricane Maria in September last year.
The island’s meteorological service said weather conditions would start deteriorating yesterday night and warned of 15cm to 30cm of rain.
A tropical storm watch was issued for the French Caribbean territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martin and St Barts. Deeper into the Caribbean, a state of emergency was declared in Puerto Rico, which Maria also pounded.
Beryl formed on Friday and was a Category 1 storm late in the day.
At 2am yesterday, the US National Hurricane Center said Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 130kph.
It was centered 1,392km east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at 22 kph.
Forecasters said Beryl was expected to strengthen some more in the next few days, but predicted it would begin weakening after entering the Caribbean late today or early tomorrow.
It was forecast to pass about 113km south of Puerto Rico today, but the storm-wracked US territory was warned that it could still see high winds as well as heavy rains that could cause flooding and mudslides.
“People have to remain alert,” said Gabriel Lojero, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in San Juan. “The forecast could change for the better or worse.”
Beryl is a compact storm, with hurricane-force winds extending out about 20km from its center.
Forecasters said the storm probably would dissipate once it moves south of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency for the island and suspended work for tomorrow.
Rossello told reporters the island would probably experience power outages, given that its electricity grid has become more vulnerable since Maria, which caused damage estimated at more than US$100 billion.
However, he said that the recovery should be quicker, as there are more power restoration crews and more equipment on the island now.
The governor urged people without sturdy roofs to move to one of the 424 shelters that the government planned to open across the island.
He said that about 60,000 people still have only tarps for roofs.
“There are a lot of Puerto Ricans who are in a vulnerable position,” Rossello said. “We are keeping an eye on this minute by minute. It is not the moment to panic, but it’s the moment to prepare.”
Puerto Rican Secretary of Health Rafael Rodriguez urged all those with serious health conditions to seek shelter at health facilities, which have generators.
Meanwhile, a tropical depression formed in the Atlantic well off the North Carolina coast, but forecasters said it was not expected to pose any threat to land.
The hurricane center said it would likely become a tropical storm yesterday and continue strengthening over the next few days while remaining far offshore.
At 11pm, the storm was centered about 315km south-southeast of Cape Hatteras with maximum sustained winds of 48kph. It was moving north-northwest at 9kph.
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