Puerto Rican officials warned residents to prepare for heavy rains and potential flooding as Tropical Depression Karen took aim at the island on Monday.
The National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm watch for Puerto Rico, and both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, saying the storm could bring 2 inches to 4 inches of rain and heavy winds as it churns northward this week. Some isolated areas could see 8 inches of rain, as well as mudslides and flooding.
“On the forecast track, the center of Karen will pass near or over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, and then move over the western Atlantic tonight and Wednesday,” the agency said early Tuesday morning. “Slow strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Karen could become a tropical storm again later today.”
Karen was classified earlier Monday as a tropical storm, but was downgraded as maximum sustained wind speeds topped out around 35 mph.
Despite the weakening, officials haven’t backed away from warnings that the storm could bring danger to the region. Puerto Rico’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, closed schools and public agencies as Karen approached the island, warning of power outages and telling those in flood-prone regions to move elsewhere.
Puerto Rico is still recovering from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which left widespread devastation and more than $100 billion in damage, and parts of the Bahamas were recently flattened by the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.
This week’s storm wasn’t the only threat to the island on Monday. Late in the evening, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit the island followed by two aftershocks. No damage was reported.
Karen is one of three tropical systems spinning in the Atlantic right now. Tropical Storm Jerry was moving towards Bermuda and could arrive near the country by Tuesday afternoon, and Tropical Storm Lorenzo was forming near Africa. Lorenzo is expected to become a hurricane by late Tuesday, the NHC said.