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Tropical Storm Grace Forms, Expected To Reach The Lesser Antilles Tonight: NWS

SAN JUAN — Tropical Storm Grace formed this morning with a forecast that threatens the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by the end of the weekend.

The tropical wave grew into the 2021 hurricane season’s seventh named storm, and as of the National Hurricane Center’s 8 a.m. advisory is located about 335 miles east of the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph moving west at 22 mph.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for… Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Montserrat, Saba and Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, including Vieques and Culebra

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for… the British Virgin Islands

Tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area over the Leeward Islands by tonight or early Sunday, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico beginning on Sunday.

And forecasters are again warning residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands that a tropical storm could form right on top of them in the coming days .

A Tropical Storm Warning was issued for Puerto Rico and the USVI this morning.

But, less than a week after what would become Tropical Storm Fred passed over the Virgin Islands as a dud with just a series of squalls, emergency planners are worried the territory won’t take Tropical Storm Grace seriously.

A shopper at a convenience store on St. Croix Friday night was asked if he had heard about the storm coming Sunday or Monday, and said: “Yes, I’m hoping it will bring plenty of rain for my cistern”

But National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Ernesto Morales said from San Juan that residents shouldn’t let their guard down..

The resilient veterans of Hugo, Marilyn and Maria know how to hunker down when hurricanes make an unwelcome visit. But lesser storms actually cause more fatalities because people throw throw caution to the wind, Morales says.

And that’s when people die.

“If you go back to statistics, we lose more lives with strong tropical waves, or tropical storms, compared to hurricanes,” Morales cautions. “When you mention the name ‘hurricane,’ they take action. When we talk about tropical storm, tropical wave, they just say ‘Eh, just rain.’”

“We try to reach the public with the dangers of each system,” he says. “For this system, we know the impact is going to be rain. … Winds are going to be gusty, but the major threat is going to be rain.”

Specifically, the NWS is predicting Grace will bring sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph, with gust up to 50 mph to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Sunday afternoon and into Monday. What should be of a greater worry, Morales cautions, will be the 3 to 6 inches of rain the system is expected to bring.

While Morales said there is still a lot of uncertainty as to the exact track the storm will take across the V.I. and Puerto Rico, he says the Weather Service is certain of the potential that heavy rains and flash floods have for turning deadly in moments. “The center will be closest on Sunday evening. We’ll have rain bands moving forward ahead of the storm effecting us first.”

Also of concern will be the “choppy marine conditions associated with this tropical system,” according to Morales.

Hazardous marine conditions are expected by Sunday night with the storm causing dangerous rip currents and bringing waves of 7 to 9 feet and occasionally higher.

“It’s not going to be an Irma or Maria, it’s going to be a little storm,” Morales said noting that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. “You are going to have a lot of rain. It is dangerous.”

In addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, tropical storm watches have been issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Montserrat, Saba and Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy and the British Virgin Islands.

Drop Dead Fred

While currently a depression as it moves along Cuba’s northern coast, Fred could regain tropical storm strength as it nears the Florida Keys today, according to the National Hurricane Center. On Friday evening, Fred had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was dropping heavy rain over parts of Cuba, where the main threats were rain and flooding. A tropical storm warning was issued Friday morning for the Florida Keys and Florida Bay, and a watch was in place for southwest Florida.

The hurricane center said 3 to 7 inches of rain were expected across the Florida Keys and southern peninsula by Monday, with isolated maximums of 10 inches.

A tropical storm shortly after it passed the Virgin Islands on Tuesday, Fred weakened back to a depression by its spin over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power to some 400,000 customers and caused flooding that forced officials to shut down part of the country’s aqueduct system, interrupting water service for hundreds of thousands of people. Local officials reported hundreds of people were evacuated and some buildings were damaged.

The system is expected to produce the following rainfall amounts Saturday into Monday: Over the northern Leeward Islands and Virgin Islands…3 to 6 inches. This rainfall may produce scattered areas of flash and urban flooding.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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