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Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands brace for Karen as another tropical storm forms over eastern Atlantic

2019-09-24

Puerto Rico’s governor declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the National Guard to prepare for Tropical Depression Karen, which is expected to bring heavy rainfall to the island between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center described Karen, one of three storms currently spinning across the Atlantic Ocean, as a “disorganized” system that could unleash flash floods, mudslides, strong winds and up to 8 inches of rain to parts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As of Monday evening, the center of the storm was located about 110 miles south of St. Croix and moving northwest at 13 mph. Maximum sustained winds were around 35 mph with higher gusts, according to the hurricane center’s latest advisory.

The agency downgraded Karen from a tropical storm to a tropical depression on Monday, but it said “little overall change” in wind speed was expected.

“Karen has become increasingly disorganized today,” the advisory reads. “The environment ahead of Karen is forecast to remain quite hostile, with dry mid-level air and strong northeasterly shear continuing overnight.”

Earlier on Monday, the season’s 13th tracked depression over the Atlantic Ocean was upgraded into Tropical Storm Lorenzo. The system was closer to the African continent than to the Caribbean islands, but it was expected to continue moving northwest and possibly become a hurricane by Wednesday.

Another tropical storm, Jerry, was forecast to produce heavy rainfall across Bermuda between Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria killed about 3,000 people two years ago this month, Gov. Wanda Vázquez canceled classes, closed government agencies and told residents to stay calm and prepare.

“I urge citizens to implement their emergency plans and those who live in the vulnerable areas of the south and southeast of Puerto Rico to consider going to a shelter,” she tweeted Monday afternoon.