Beryl weakens to tropical storm en route to Caribbean
SAN JUAN (AP):
Beryl weakened to a tropical storm yesterday but is still expected to dump heavy rain over the Lesser Antilles at the end of the weekend on its way to the Eastern Caribbean, bringing a new threat to islands still rebuilding from last year's storms.
A tropical storm warning was issued for Dominica, which was battered by Hurricane Maria in September as a Category 5 storm.
The island's meteorological service said that weather conditions would start deteriorating last night and warned of six to 12 inches of rain, with the storm expected to cross over, or near, Dominica late today or early tomorrow.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a public address that the storm's track and intensity could still change and urged people to remain alert.
"They should not let their guard down," he said. He also asked people to store water because he said the government would be shutting down the water system as a preventive measure.
A tropical storm watch was issued for the French Caribbean territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martin, and St Barts, as well as the islands of Barbados, St Lucia, Saba, and St Eustatius.
Deeper into the Caribbean, a state of emergency was declared in Puerto Rico, where Maria caused more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.
Beryl was named the first hurricane of the Atlantic season last Friday. Yesterday, the US National Hurricane Center said Beryl's strength had diminished and it had maximum sustained winds of 65mph (100kph). It was centred 720 miles (1160 kilometres) east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at 14mph (22kph).
People in the Caribbean were taking no chances. Long lines were reported outside grocery stores on the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere as people bought food and water.