Tropical Storm Erika nears Antigua en route to Puerto Rico

The fast-moving storm dumps rain on the eastern Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Erika is pictured in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Venezuela in this NASA handout satellite photo of Wednesday. A fast-moving Tropical Storm Erika neared Antigua and Barbuda early on Thursday, dumping rain on the eastern Caribbean on a path expected to take it by Puerto Rico later in the day.

A fast-moving Tropical Storm Erika neared Antigua and Barbuda early on Thursday, dumping rain on the eastern Caribbean on a path expected to take it by Puerto Rico later in the day.

Across the region, officials ordered schools, airports and even casinos to close and they prepared shelters ahead of the storm, which was not expected to strengthen over the next two days.

Late Wednesday night, Erika was located about 110 miles (175 kilometres) east-southeast of Antigua and was moving west at 16 mph (26 kph) with a maximum sustained speed of 45 mph (75 kph), according to the National Hurricane Centre in Miami.

Flash floods warning

Authorities in Antigua and Barbuda warned of flash floods given the extremely dry conditions caused by the worst drought to hit the Caribbean in recent years. Boats at Shell Beach Marina on Antigua’s north coast have been out of the water since Saturday, with people not taking chances as Erika approaches, said Caroline Davy, a marina employee.

She said many people were caught off-guard when Tropical Storm Gonzalo battered Antigua last October.

“Too many times we’ve seen things happen that were not predicted,” she said.

No business as usual

Authorities in the nearby Dutch Caribbean territory of St. Maarten said schools and government offices would close 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 hurricane centre said Erika would move near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Thursday.

All airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands would be closed to incoming flights until Friday, and government offices would close as well, said Gov. Kenneth Mapp.

“This is a fast-moving storm, and so we expect conditions to deteriorate rapidly,” he said.

Storm watch

Tropical storm warnings were issued for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and the Leeward Islands. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the northern Dominican Republic, the Turks & Caicos Islands and south-eastern Bahamas.

The storm is expected to be near South Florida by Monday, according to James Franklin, chief hurricane forecaster at the Miami-based centre. But its intensity is still uncertain.

“We don’t know how much of the storm will be left,” he said, adding that it faced strong upper-level westerly winds in the next two to three days.

Ignacio now a hurricane

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Ignacio strengthened into a hurricane. The storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to 75 mph (120 kph).

Source: The Hindu

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