Tropical Storm Beryl weakens but still pushing toward Puerto Rico

Tropical Storm Beryl, the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2018 season, is expected to further weaken as it approaches the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico in the next couple of days.

As of Sunday at 8 a.m., Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was moving west-northwest at 20 mph toward the Lesser Antilles.

The storm’s poorly defined center — or what by then might be its remnants — is expected to approach the Lesser Antilles Sunday, cross the island chain Sunday night and move near or south of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Puerto Rico is not currently under any warnings or watches from the hurricane center. Still, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Dominica and Guadaloupe, and a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Barbados, Martinique, St. Martin, and St. Barthelemy, Saba and St. Eustatius and St. Maarte.

Track Tropical Storm Beryl here

In Dominica, which was torn apart by Hurricane Maria last September, the government announced that a curfew and state of emergency will go into effect at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The water system will also be shut down at 2 p.m., the government said.

By the time Beryl reaches near Puerto Rico, the storm is likely to have weakened into a tropical depression. Even so, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency for the island on Friday.

“While we don’t expect a direct hit to take place on Puerto Rico, even some of those outer bands … have the potential to knock out power” on the US territory, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.

Puerto Rico preps

Though the storm is far from the strength of major Hurricanes Maria and Irma last year, Beryl still poses a threat of wind and rain to areas that have not fully recovered from those destructive storms. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and caused the deaths of an untold number of people.

The US commonwealth was ordered to turn over to CNN and another news organization a database of information on all deaths that occurred after Maria pummeled the island. An academic report has estimated that 4,645 people died due to Maria’s destruction.

News of Beryl’s approach has been enough for Puerto Ricans to flock to stores to stock up on water and dry goods.

Frances Colon, a Miami resident who is on the island for a wedding, shared a photo Friday morning of a line of people that spread to the parking lot of a Costco in the city of Bayamón.

“People are very aware, and they want to be prepared,” Colon said.

“No one taking a chance with Beryl,” she tweeted. “It’s all anyone talks about wherever we go. I don’t blame them.”

Others shared photos of the crowds of people lining up to buy preparatory supplies.

Gabriel Rivera-Cruz, a resident of San Juan, went to the same Costco on Thursday night with his family and was surprised to see long lines of people already there.

“I think the memories from (last year’s) hurricanes are so fresh that we have a clear idea of the effects and which items can be scarce or hard to find,” he said.

“Most people I know are aware that this storm doesn’t seem to be a second Maria, but is simply a wake-up call that the hurricane season is here and we are still extremely vulnerable,” Rivera-Cruz added.

Tropical Storm Chris

As Tropical Storm Beryl weakens, weather forecasters say Tropical Storm Chris is likely to strengthen to a hurricane by Monday but will remain well away from the U.S. coast for the next two or three days.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sunday that the storm has barely moved since Saturday. At 11 a.m. EDT, the storm’s center was located about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds have reached 45 mph (75 kph).

No coastal watches or warnings are in effect, but forecasters say swells along the coasts of North Carolina and the mid-Atlantic states could produce dangerous surf and rip current conditions.