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From Puerto Rico, Tropical Storm Karen Could Turn West This Weekend

As of the 8 p.m. update, Karen was 45 miles east of San Juan, headed northeast at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, were under storm warnings.

by Alex Harris, Jim Wyss, and Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald / September 25, 2019

(TNS) — Tropical Storm Karen spent most of Tuesday smacking Puerto Rico’s east coast and the Virgin Islands with bands of wind and rain, a short-lived assault that’s expected to end as Karen sails back into the Atlantic overnight.

Once it clears the islands, the storm’s next steps are still “quite unclear,” forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said, because there’s a lot going on in the Atlantic. After a jaunt north of Puerto Rico, Karen could stall out under another storm in the area — Tropical Storm Jerry — and take a western turn toward Florida on Saturday, although it’s too soon to know what impact the storm could have.

As of the 8 p.m. update, Karen was about 45 miles east of San Juan and headed northeast at about 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as Puerto Rico, were under tropical storm warnings.

Puerto Rican officials said the island should brace for “significant flooding events” as Tropical Storm Karen could dump two to four inches of rain over most of the island, and up to eight inches in isolated areas.

Schools and government offices were closed Tuesday and Gov. Wanda Vazquez warned people to stay close to home or head to a shelter across the U.S. territory of 3.2 million people. The international airport reported that more than a dozen flights — largely to and from the Caribbean — have been canceled; and ferry service to and from Puerto Rico’s outer islands, Vieques and Culebra, was suspended late Monday.

While the storm is expected to be packing winds of 45 miles per hour, National Weather Service Meteorologist Ernesto Morales said the real threat will be from flooding.

“The biggest problem will be the rainfall we’ll see for the coming days,” he said. Heavy rains are expected to begin Tuesday afternoon and could last through Thursday morning.

The storm comes just days after the island marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that caused billions in damage and led to a widespread infrastructure collapse. That storm and its aftermath were blamed for the deaths of almost 3,000 people.

Of particular concern to local officials are the estimated 25,000-30,000 people who have been living under temporary blue tarps since Maria. The government has opened up storm shelters and has said emergency crews are prepared to deliver aid once the storm passes.

Karen is also set to arrive a day after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck near Puerto Rico, the strongest to hit the island in recent years.

Kiara Hernández, spokeswoman for the island’s Emergency Management Agency, told The Associated Press that there were no immediate reports of damage following the quake. The National Weather Service in San Juan also said there is no risk of a tsunami.

While the storm remains far from Florida, the state’s Atlantic coast has a high risk of rip currents at least until late Tuesday, causing dangerous conditions for small vessels and swimmers, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters say the risk does not appear to be related to Karen or the other storms in the Atlantic.

Once the tropical storm moves north of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, forecasters believe the storm may see “some slow but steady strengthening” but the storm’s path later in the week is still “quite uncertain.”

“Karen remains in a complex steering environment that includes a low- to mid-level ridge to the east and northeast, Tropical Storm Jerry to the north-northwest, and a large mid- to upper-level trough extending from near Jerry to eastern Cuba,” Forecaster Beven wrote in the early evening update.

As of the 5 p.m. update, the NHC said a western turn looked more likely, “although there remains a lot of uncertainty about when and how fast.” A western turn would also put the recently ravaged Bahamas on alert.

Tropical Storm Jerry is set to cross Bermuda Wednesday, bringing tropical-storm-force winds and up to three inches of rain. Jerry was traveling north northeast toward Bermuda, which was under a tropical storm warning, at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph as of the 8 p.m. advisory.

Forecasters said the storm is expected to peter out by the weekend to a tropical depression.

Tropical Storm Lorenzo, which is in the far east Atlantic, could become a hurricane later today, forecasters said in the 5 p.m. update. As of the afternoon update, the storm was headed west at 17 mph with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.

The latest track showed Lorenzo is forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 storm by Friday as it heads northeast. It appears to be on a path that keeps it well away from any land for now.


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