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USVI and Puerto Rico Warned of Dangerous Seas and Strong Winds

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The San Juan National Weather Service has issued an important decision support briefing, alerting to the dangers of hazardous seas and potentially fatal rip currents, which are expected to impact Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the majority of the week.

This briefing describes a minor swell from the north to northeast moving across the regional waters. In combination with brisk easterly winds caused by a robust high-pressure system to the north, these conditions are expected to maintain hazardous maritime and surf zone environments until at least Tuesday.

The hazardous conditions are forecasted to last through the week and may extend into the weekend, driven by another long-period swell from the northeast and turbulent wind-driven seas. Additionally, the islands are likely to experience breezy conditions during the workweek.

Outlined Potential Risks and Impacts

  • Marine Conditions: Waves are predicted to be treacherous, ranging from 6 to 10 feet, with occasional surges up to 11 feet. Wind velocities are anticipated to be between 15 and 25 knots, gusting up to 30 knots. These conditions present a considerable danger to small vessels. Consequently, Small Craft Advisories are in effect until at least Friday for most local waters, except for the coastal areas of south and southwestern Puerto Rico, where smaller crafts should proceed with caution.
  • Surf Zone Dangers: Beaches facing the north and east in Puerto Rico, Culebra, Vieques, and the beaches of the U.S. Virgin Islands are under a High Rip Current Risk warning due to life-threatening swimming conditions and rip currents. This is a result of breaking waves ranging between 6 and 8 feet, occasionally higher.

Residents and tourists in these regions are encouraged to stay updated and practice safety near water bodies.

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Weather

NOAA Predicts Active 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has projected a notably active Atlantic hurricane season for 2024, with an 85% likelihood of above-normal activity. According to the Climate Prediction Center, the forecast anticipates 17 to 25 named storms, of which 8 to 13 may develop into hurricanes, including 4 to 7 reaching major hurricane strength. This prediction reflects a 70% confidence level from NOAA’s forecasters, who attribute the increased activity to near-record warm ocean temperatures, the onset of La Nina conditions, and reduced wind shear.

The official hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. As a strong El Nino period concludes, NOAA scientists anticipate a swift transition to La Nina, which is conducive to hurricane formation due to lower wind shear in the Atlantic. Additionally, an above-normal West African monsoon season could contribute to stronger and longer-lasting Atlantic storms.

Rising ocean temperatures and melting ice, leading to higher sea levels, exacerbate the potential impact of hurricanes by increasing storm surge risks. In response to the escalating threat, NOAA is enhancing its communication and forecasting capabilities. Planned improvements include expanded advisories in Spanish, a new experimental forecast cone graphic to depict inland storm threats, and the integration of new models to better predict storm intensification.

Technological advancements such as Saildrones and underwater gliders will be deployed to improve storm tracking and intensity predictions. These enhancements are supported by upgrades to NOAA’s observational infrastructure, providing detailed and real-time data essential for accurate forecasting.

NOAA emphasizes the importance of public preparedness, urging residents in hurricane-prone areas to stay informed through reliable sources like hurricanes.gov and social media platforms. FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik A. Hooks also stresses the need for immediate readiness, highlighting the unpredictable nature of severe weather and its widespread impacts.

NOAA’s seasonal outlook forms part of a broader strategy to boost public awareness and preparedness ahead of potential hurricane landfalls. The Climate Prediction Center plans to provide an updated outlook in early August, incorporating the latest data and predictive models to refine forecasts as the peak hurricane season approaches.

In summary, with an anticipated increase in hurricane activity for the 2024 Atlantic season, NOAA and FEMA underscore the vital importance of preparation and advanced forecasting to mitigate impacts and enhance public safety.

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Elevated Health Risks Prompt Advisory Against Using Coastal Waters During Storms

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With forecasts predicting heavy rainfall and potential flooding, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has issued an advisory for the public to avoid using coastal waters across the territory until further notice.

Parents are specifically urged to keep children away from beaches affected by storm water and from areas with manholes or flooding. The advisory highlights the elevated health risks due to increased concentrations of bacteria in storm water runoff, which can include puddles, ghuts, and drainage basins that may also carry harmful contaminants and pollutants.

DPNR has committed to ongoing monitoring of the affected areas and waters to ensure public safety.

Contractors, developers, and home builders are reminded to implement and maintain enhanced erosion and sediment control measures at disturbed properties. The recommended practices include:

  • Preservation of natural vegetation
  • Drainage swales and diversions
  • Temporary and permanent seeding
  • Soil sealers and binders
  • Erosion control mats
  • Soil retaining walls
  • Proper construction entrances and exits
  • Silt fencing
  • Sediment traps
  • Mulches, mats, and geotextiles

Additionally, all construction materials and equipment should be secured or removed to prevent them from becoming airborne hazards during storms.

For reporting areas of concern, contact the Division of Environmental Protection Earth Change Program at (340) 774-3320 or (340) 773-1082.

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Weather Service Issues Flood Warnings for USVI and Puerto Rico

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The National Weather Service in San Juan has issued an alert for heavy rain and potential flooding affecting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, starting Wednesday.

Forecasts indicate that a combination of an upper-level trough and a developing surface low-pressure system will bring substantial moisture to the region, increasing the likelihood of flooding as the week progresses.

The anticipated weather pattern includes multiple rain episodes, beginning with showers arriving from the Caribbean Sea into the Virgin Islands and spreading across southern and eastern Puerto Rico on Wednesday. A second wave of rain is expected on Thursday, with lingering effects potentially extending into Friday.

Meteorologists warn that sustained periods of moderate to heavy rainfall could elevate the risks of river overflows, flash floods, and mudslides. Residents and visitors, particularly those in flood-prone areas, are advised to stay informed with weather updates and prepare for swiftly changing conditions.

This moisture-laden system is predicted to persist through at least late Saturday, maintaining the heightened risk of flooding throughout the period.

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