Tropical Storm Chantal bore down on the Dominican Republic, where it’s expected to come ashore today, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Chantal’s top winds reached 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour, and it was about 395 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo, the country’s capital, the hurricane center said in an advisory before 8 p.m. New York time yesterday. The storm was moving west-northwest at 26 miles per hour.
“Only a slight increase in the winds is forecast before Chantal crosses Hispaniola, where weakening is expected,” Lixion Avila, a senior hurricane specialist at the center, said in a forecast yesterday.
Tropical storms and flooding are among the greatest natural threats to the Dominican Republic, according to report by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, a consortium of 41 countries, including the U.S., and eight international organizations dedicated to reducing developing countries’ vulnerability to natural disasters.
Chantal is expected to drop 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain across Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with some areas receiving as much as 8 inches, according to the hurricane center.
Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said residents should take precautions as the storm approaches and follow instructions from government agencies.
A hurricane watch has been issued from Barahona to Samana in the Dominican Republic and a tropical storm warning is in place for the country’s entire coastline. In addition, storm warnings are in effect on Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas.
Tropical storm watches are also set for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques and Culebra and the central Bahamas. A storm warning means high winds, rain and waves will probably hit within 36 hours. A watch means those conditions are possible.
On Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ports are open to outbound ships only, according to a U.S. Coast Guard statement. Vessels greater than 500 gross tons are urged to make for sea.
The official storm track predicts Chantal will cross Hispaniola today and into the Atlantic tomorrow, where it will move through the Bahamas and skirt Florida’s coast.
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, while Haiti covers the western end. Chantal may approach hurricane strength today before coming ashore. After it starts to cross land, it’s expected to weaken, Avila said.
Whether Chantal becomes a threat to Florida will depend on its strength after crossing the mountains on Hispaniola and the development of a high-pressure system to the north, said Paul Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The mountains may disrupt Chantal and rob it of the moisture needed to maintain strength, he said.
At 10,416 feet, Pica Duarte is the highest point in the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.
“We have seen numerous storms come across there and get torn apart and others have held together,” Walker said.
The high-pressure system could either steer it toward Florida or let it pass out to sea after it moves through the Bahamas, Walker said.
“That becomes the pivotal point as far as its future track,” he said.
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