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Warnings Issued for Coastal and Marine Hazards Affecting Puerto Rico and Northern USVI

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The National Weather Service has sounded the alarm on impending coastal and marine hazards targeting the offshore and coastal zones of northwestern Puerto Rico, the Mona and Anegada Passages, and reaching up to the northern territories of the US Virgin Islands.

With advisories effective through Tuesday morning, authorities warn of perilous seas for small crafts and caution against treacherous swimming conditions due to towering surf in these locales.

Commencing on April 1, Monday, maritime forecasts predict sea levels ranging between 6-8 feet with surf breaking at formidable heights of 7-11 feet. Although the sea’s fury is expected to diminish as the week unfolds, the initial onslaught poses significant dangers to smaller vessels. Mariners navigating the waters of Puerto Rico and the USVI are urged to proceed with caution, particularly during the afternoon when marine conditions are forecasted to peak in severity.

Wind predictions for the week ahead suggest velocities of 15 to 20 knots, with gusts surging to 25 knots on Monday. While a gradual reduction in wind strength is anticipated, the persistence of notable gusts will continue to stir the seas, justifying the advisories issued for these areas.

A critical point of concern is the elevated risk of life-threatening rip currents along Puerto Rico’s northern shore, stretching from Rincon to Ceiba, and extending through Culebra to the northern USVI. This peril is slated to persist into the midweek, with rip currents capable of dragging even the most adept swimmers out to sea, complicating efforts to return safely to shore. Although the threat level is expected to moderate by Thursday, April 4, conditions conducive to potentially fatal rip currents remain a possibility.

The genesis of these treacherous conditions can be traced back to northerly swells coupled with moderate to brisk trade winds. Despite the anticipated waning of the current northerly swell, the arrival of another long-period swell from the north by midweek could prolong the hazardous circumstances. The resultant effects include perilous seas for small crafts, along with dangerous conditions for surfing and swimming, not to mention the potential for localized coastal flooding and beach erosion affecting both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Authorities are imploring residents and visitors in the impacted regions of both Puerto Rico and the USVI to heed advisories and exercise utmost caution near water bodies.

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Weather

Tropical Storms Hit the Virgin Islands: How to Prepare

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As tropical storms and hurricanes frequently threaten the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is crucial to be well-prepared to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. The Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1 to November 30, peaking between mid-August and late October. Effective preparation can mitigate the risks associated with these powerful storms.

1. Understand the Risks

The Virgin Islands face several hazards from tropical storms, including high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and flooding. Understanding these risks is the first step in preparing adequately. The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) provides resources to help residents stay informed about potential threats.

2. Develop an Emergency Plan

Creating a comprehensive emergency plan is essential. Discuss with your family the steps to take if a storm approaches. Include plans for elderly and disabled family members, and ensure all household members know what to do. Make sure to:

  • Identify evacuation routes and shelters.
  • Plan for communication if family members are separated.
  • Register for emergency alerts to receive timely updates.

3. Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit

A well-stocked disaster supply kit can be a lifesaver during and after a storm. Your kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food and water for at least three days.
  • Medications, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene items.
  • Flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio.
  • Important documents, such as insurance policies, medical records, and identification, stored in waterproof containers.
  • Supplies for pets, if applicable.

Keep your kit updated and make sure all family members know its location​ (VI Department of Health)​​ (VITEMA)​​ (Home)​.

4. Prepare Your Home

Strengthening your home against storm damage is vital. Take the following steps to safeguard your property:

  • Trim or remove trees and branches that could fall on your home.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any debris to prevent water damage.
  • Install storm shutters or board up windows to protect against flying debris.
  • Secure and reinforce the roof, doors, and garage doors.
  • Consider purchasing a portable generator for power outages, ensuring it is used safely and kept outside away from windows and doors​ (VI Department of Health)​​ (Home)​.

5. Stay Informed and Connected

Staying informed about weather updates and maintaining communication with family and emergency services is critical. Sign up for local alerts and warnings through VITEMA and other emergency management agencies. Follow official sources on social media for real-time updates.

6. Know the Difference: Watches vs. Warnings

Understanding the terminology used by weather services can help you respond appropriately:

  • Watch: Conditions are favorable for a storm. Begin making preparations.
  • Warning: A storm is imminent or occurring. Take immediate action to protect yourself and your property​ (VITEMA)​.

7. Community and Neighbor Support

In the aftermath of a storm, community support can be invaluable. Help neighbors secure their homes and share resources and information. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) can provide training on basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and medical operations​ (Home)​.

Conclusion

Preparation is the key to minimizing the impact of tropical storms and hurricanes on the Virgin Islands. By understanding the risks, developing a comprehensive plan, assembling a disaster supply kit, preparing your home, staying informed, and supporting your community, you can enhance your resilience against these natural disasters.

For more detailed information and resources, visit VITEMA’s website and FEMA’s hurricane preparedness page.

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Weather

Saharan Dust Plume to Affect USVI and Puerto Rico

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Starting Friday, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will experience a significant plume of Saharan Dust, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in San Juan. This Moderate to Severe event is projected to continue through at least Sunday morning, posing several environmental and health challenges.

The dust, originating from the Sahara and Sahel deserts and transported across the Atlantic Ocean, will result in hazy skies and reduced visibility. The particles contain minerals, organic matter, marine salts, viruses, and bacteria. While beneficial as a natural fertilizer for ecosystems, the dust can pose serious health risks.

Individuals with preexisting health conditions, particularly those who are immunocompromised or part of vulnerable groups, may experience exacerbated symptoms. The Department of Health has noted an uptick in respiratory issues during such events. Exposure to Saharan Dust may lead to:

  • Nose irritation
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergies
  • Asthma exacerbation
  • Throat irritation
  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Increased risk of respiratory infection

To mitigate these effects, residents are advised to keep medications handy, stay hydrated, wear light clothing, limit outdoor activities, and use face masks and eyeglasses.

The Virgin Islands Department of Health (DOH) has issued guidance to help residents manage the impacts of the dust. They emphasize preventive measures and advise seeking medical attention if severe symptoms occur.

The NWS will continue to monitor the situation and provide necessary updates.

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Weather

Hurricane Beryl Leaves Destruction and Death; Jamaica Under Hurricane Warning; Coastal Flood Advisory for St. Croix

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Hurricane Beryl has unleashed widespread destruction and claimed at least one life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. Union Island, part of the Grenadines, experienced significant devastation with 90 percent of homes damaged, many losing roofs or being completely destroyed. Carriacou in Grenada also suffered extensive damage, with drone footage revealing numerous homes with destroyed roofs. Although Barbados was impacted, it did not receive a direct hit from the storm.

Current Warnings

Hurricane Warning:

  • Jamaica

Tropical Storm Warning:

  • South coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the Haitian border
  • South coast of Haiti from the Dominican Republic border to Anse d’Hainault

A Hurricane Warning signifies that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours, while a Tropical Storm Warning indicates tropical storm conditions are expected within the same timeframe.

Monitoring Beryl

Residents in the Cayman Islands and the northwestern Caribbean should closely monitor Beryl, as additional watches or warnings may be issued. Despite Beryl’s severe impact in the central Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are expected to experience increased showers and gusty winds on Tuesday, with potential strong wind gusts accompanying the rain. Following Beryl, Saharan dust is forecasted to move in on Wednesday, followed by another tropical wave on Thursday with a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone.

Coastal Conditions

The main impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will be deteriorating marine and coastal conditions. A Coastal Flood Advisory is in effect from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. AST on Tuesday for St. Croix, Vieques, and the southern coast of Puerto Rico due to waves up to 17 feet. Seas are expected to reach 8 to 15 feet as the system passes to the south on Tuesday.

Hurricane Beryl’s Current Status

As of 2:00 a.m. AST, Hurricane Beryl was located near latitude 14.2 North, longitude 65.8 West, moving west-northwest at 22 mph. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters reported maximum sustained winds of 165 mph, classifying Beryl as a Category 5 hurricane. Although fluctuations in strength are likely, Beryl is expected to remain a major hurricane as it approaches Jamaica on Wednesday, with weakening expected thereafter.

Expected Impact on Jamaica and Hispaniola

Wind:
Hurricane conditions are anticipated in Jamaica by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions expected along the south coast of Hispaniola later today.

Storm Surge:
Storm surge could raise water levels by 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels along Jamaica’s coast and by 1 to 3 feet along Hispaniola’s southern coast.

Rainfall:
Beryl is expected to produce 4 to 8 inches of rain, with localized maxima of 12 inches in Jamaica on Wednesday, potentially causing flash flooding. Rainfall from Beryl’s outer bands may impact Hispaniola with 2 to 6 inches of rain possible.

Surf:
Large swells generated by Beryl will continue across the Windward and southern Leeward Islands over the next few days, reaching the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola later today. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Additional Weather Systems

An area of low pressure about 1,000 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands is generating disorganized showers and thunderstorms. While environmental conditions are only marginally conducive for development, heavy rainfall is possible midweek in the Lesser Antilles.

  • Formation chance through 48 hours: Low (20 percent)
  • Formation chance through 7 days: Low (30 percent)
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