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Puerto Rico Braces for Flooding Ahead of Tropical Storm Karen

Brian K. Sullivan

(Bloomberg) -- Tropical storm and flood warnings and watches are still in place across Puerto Rico as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, even though Karen has weakened to a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea.

With its top winds dropping to 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour about 175 miles south of San Juan, Karen still is forecast to bring heavy rain and gusting winds across Puerto Rico, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. advisory. A tropical depression is the weakest in the family of storms that also includes hurricanes.

“The tropical storm warning is maintained since only a small increase in wind speed would make Karen a tropical storm again,” Daniel Brown, a meteorologist at the center, wrote in a forecast analysis. “Regardless of Karen’s status as a tropical cyclone, this system is expected to bring tropical-storm-force winds, heavy rainfall, flash floods and mudslides to Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands on Tuesday.”

Karen is one of 12 Atlantic storms that have formed this year, which equals the output of an average hurricane season. It will likely follow a track similar to Hurricane Dorian, which slipped between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dorian then moved west into the Bahamas with record force, killing at least 50 people. It eventually scraped the U.S. East Coast, causing flooding.

Emergency

Puerto Rico will open shelters at 6 p.m. Monday and close schools on Tuesday. Governor Wanda Vazquez declared an emergency and activated the National Guard. Puerto Ricans remain deeply traumatized by the memory of Hurricane Maria, which struck on Sept. 20, 2017. The storm was blamed for killing about 3,000 people and leaving the island without power for months.

Once Karen passes Puerto Rico, there is a chance it will restrengthen to a tropical storm and drift west toward the Bahamas and the U.S.

To the east, forecasters are tracking Tropical Storm Lorenzo, which is forecast to become a hurricane and drift into the central Atlantic away from land later this week. To the north, Tropical Storm Jerry is forecast to sweep north of Bermuda as it heads out to sea.

(Updates with preparations on Puerto Rico in fifth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Michael Deibert.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pratish Narayanan at pnarayanan9@bloomberg.net

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