North Caribbean braces for tropical storm ErikaArchive
SAN JUAN: Governments ordered schools, airports and even casinos to close and they prepared shelters as Tropical Storm Erika approached the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday.
The storm was located about 245 miles east-southeast of Antigua and was moving west at 17 mph. Maximum sustained winds increased on Wednesday morning to near 45 mph (75 kph), but the storm was not forecast to gain strength over the next two days.
Erika was expected to move just north of Barbuda late on Wednesday as it enters the Caribbean, said Philmore Mullin, director of Antigua and Barbuda’s National Office of Disaster Services.
He said the twin-island nation could experience flash flooding given the extremely dry conditions caused by the worst drought to hit the Caribbean in recent years.
“This is a serious storm, and they need to make sure preparations are in place,” he said.
Authorities in the nearby Dutch Caribbean territory of St. Maarten said schools and government offices would be closed on Thursday. They also asked that casinos, restaurants and other businesses close by midnight on Wednesday. Officials warned they might temporarily suspend power and water service as the storm approaches.
The US National Hurricane Center said Erika would move over or near parts of the Leeward Islands on Wednesday night and then near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Thursday.
All airports in the US Virgin Islands will be closed to incoming flights until Friday, and government offices will be closed as well, said Governor Kenneth Mapp.
“This is a fast-moving storm, and so we expect conditions to deteriorate rapidly,” he said, warning that authorities would not rescue anyone during tropical storm force winds.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and the Leeward Islands. Erika was expected to dump between 3 to 5 inches of rain, and up to 8 inches in some areas.
Antigua-based regional airline LIAT and Puerto Rico-based Seaborne Airlines have canceled more than two dozen flights through Friday because of the storm, and officials in Puerto Rico said they would suspend ferry transportation between the main island and the popular sister islands of Culebra and Vieques starting on Thursday.
Meanwhile in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Ignacio gained some strength. The storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to nearly 60 mph, and it was expected to strengthen to a hurricane by Thursday.
Ignacio was centered about 1,425 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, and was moving west at 9 mph.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015
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