Local News

Slowly, Hurricane Erika Starts Turning Away...

Posted September 7, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Hurricane Erika churned the Atlantic seas with 105 mph winds Sunday while some islanders ignored warnings of choppy waters and strong undercurrents to frolic and surf in San Juan.

Erika whipped up high waves and swells, battering the northeastern shores of Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service warned that an increase in swells could force the evacuation of several coastal areas in and around San Juan.

Nevertheless, authorities canceled a hurricane watch at 5 p.m., when Erika was centered about 245 miles northeast of San Juan and turning slowly north away from the islands. The storm was moving north-northwest at near 6 mph and was expected to head toward the North Atlantic during the next 24 hours.

``Waves cresting at 10 to 15 feet continue pummeling coastal areas, causing beach erosion and flooding highways near the coastline. The damage is worst in the coastal areas from Dorado to Loiza,'' the U.S. National Weather Service said of a 25-mile stretch running east and west of San Juan.

The Virgin Islands received some heavy rain Sunday and a yacht broke its moorings and crashed ashore on the British colony of Anguilla, but otherwise, Erika's damaging edge was mainly over the open Atlantic.

On Saturday, several northeastern islands escaped with brief bursts of rain and strong wind gusts.

Sunday brought four inches of rain to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where about 100 families still live under tarpaulins replacing roofs torn off by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.

``We're mopping from yesterday (Saturday),'' said Carol Stagger, who lives with her 76-year-old mother, Elizabeth Stagger, in a three-story home in Hospital Ground. ``It's terrible because you're wet all the time. It's pouring all the time.''

In Puerto Rico, where heavy rain was expected, there were a few sporadic showers in the interior but no rain at all in San Juan, where the sun began late afternoon shining through the clouds. At Isla Verde, a popular tourist beach, dozens of people frolicked and surfed in relatively small waves.

A few miles away, battering waves swamped the road from Loiza to Carolina, causing authorities to close the seaside Route 187.

Flash floods and mud slides caused by Hurricane Hortense last year, when 24 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, killed many of the storm's 20 victims in the U.S. commonwealth.

Erika was the third hurricane of the Atlantic season. 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.