Gusty winds began to hit the eastern Caribbean on Sunday as Tropical Storm Beryl moved rapidly toward a region struggling to recover from last year’s deadly hurricanes.
Beryl, which had been the Atlantic season’s first hurricane, was losing power, but residents on islands stocked up on food and water and prepared for possible damaging winds, rains and waves.
Intermittent rain storms already were hitting Dominica early Sunday, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 centimeters) of rain could fall as the storm moves through or near the island on Sunday night.
Meteorologist Marshall Alexander told The Associated Press that officials were worried about those still living with tarps on their roofs after Maria slammed into Dominica as a Category 5 storm last year, killing dozens of people.
“We are in a vulnerable state,” he said. “The system can still cause a lot of damage regardless of whether it’s a tropical storm or a hurricane.”
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Chris formed off the Carolinas, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was likely to grow into a hurricane while heading to the northeast, roughly parallel to the coast. It wasn’t projected to directly threaten land over the next few days, though forecasters said it could kick up dangerous swells.
In the Caribbean, a tropical storm warning was up on Guadeloupe and Dominica, while a tropical storm watch was issued for the French Caribbean territories of Martinique, St. Martin and St. Barts as well as St. Maarten, Barbados, Saba and St. Eustatius.
Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told people to store water because the government would be shutting down the water system as a protective measure, and he warned them to stay alert despite the storm weakening. “They should not let their guard down,” he said.
Long lines were reported Saturday at grocery stores on Dominica, Puerto Rico and elsewhere as people shopped for food and water.
“We can’t take chances with weather,” Jeffrey Xavier, manager of Mr. Clean Bed & Breakfast, said in a phone interview. “There was a lot of buying.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) early Sunday. It was centered 285 miles (455 kilometers) east of Martinique and was moving west-northwestward at 20 mph (31 kph).
The storm was forecast to weaken into a depression Monday by the time it reaches seas just south of Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September, but that island remained under a state of emergency.
Forecasters warned that the U.S. territory could see between 15 to 25 mph (25 to 40 kph) winds, as well as heavy rains that could cause flooding and mudslides.
National Weather Service meteorologist Carlos Anselmi told the AP that 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) of rain was expected across Puerto Rico, with double that in isolated areas. Conditions were expected to deteriorate late Sunday and last through Tuesday morning.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello said in a press conference late Saturday that the island could experience power outages and urged people without sturdy roofs to move in with relatives or a government shelter. More than 1,500 power customers remain in the dark more than nine months after Maria, and some 60,000 people still have only tarps for roofs.
Off the U.S. East Coast, Tropical Storm Chris was centered about 150 miles (245 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras early Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph). It was expected to remain almost stationary over the next few days before growing to hurricane force and moving to the northeast.
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