Local News

Hurricane Erika Headed for Montserrat, Antigua

Posted September 6, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Hurricane Erika, bringing 80-mph winds, high swells and heavy rain, took aim at the northeast Caribbean today, sending yachts to anchor and people on land scurrying for emergency rations.

Among threatened islands was volcano-plagued Montserrat, where officials inspected shelters already overcrowded with displaced people. Up to 10 inches of rain was forecast, and the hurricane could gain force today, the weather service warned.

In radio broadcasts, governments urged islanders to hurry through their preparations in Antigua, Montserrat, Barbuda, Nevis, St. Kitts, Anguilla, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, where hurricane conditions were expected today.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands were under a hurricane watch. But Puerto Rican officials said the U.S. commonwealth should experience only tropical storm-force winds, under 74 mph.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Erika was centered about 110 miles northeast of Antigua. The hurricane was moving west-northwest at about 12 mph with winds near 80 mph.

The hurricane's center was expected to arrive within a few miles of Antigua this morning, forecaster Andy Roche said at the U.S. National Weather Service bureau in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

``I'm scared,'' Irene Riley said in Montserrat, where she and her three children live in a wooden home. ``I'm just prepared to get rid of some of my personal stuff and head out of Montserrat.''

About 5,000 people already are squeezed into homes and shelters in a northern safe zone on Montserrat, after recent volcanic eruptions from the Soufriere Hills forced an evacuation of the southern part of the island.

Authorities in Anguilla, citing damage caused by hurricanes in 1995 and 1996, said they would turn off the island's power supply if winds gusted to 50 mph. That would deprive the British colony of television coverage of Princess Diana's funeral in London.

In Charlotte-Amalie, capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, residents prepared to move to shelters from some homes still covered by tarpaulins replacing roofs torn off by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.

Erika was the third hurricane of the Atlantic season. In July, Hurricane Billy dispersed harmlessly in the Atlantic, but Hurricane Danny caused flooding in Alabama and South Carolina.

By MICHELLE FAUL,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.