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Slowly, Hurricane Erika Starts Turning Away...

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SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) — Hurricane Erika churned theAtlantic seas with 105 mph winds Sunday while some islandersignored warnings of choppy waters and strong undercurrents tofrolic and surf in San Juan.

Erika whipped up high waves and swells, battering thenortheastern shores of Puerto Rico. The National Weather Servicewarned that an increase in swells could force the evacuation ofseveral 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 andturning slowly north away from the islands. The storm was movingnorth-northwest at near 6 mph and was expected to head toward theNorth Atlantic during the next 24 hours.

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

The Virgin Islands received some heavy rain Sunday and a yachtbroke its moorings and crashed ashore on the British colony ofAnguilla, but otherwise, Erika's damaging edge was mainly over theopen Atlantic.

On Saturday, several northeastern islands escaped with briefbursts 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 undertarpaulins 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 athree-story home in Hospital Ground. ``It's terrible because you'rewet all the time. It's pouring all the time.''

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

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

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

Erika was the third hurricane of the Atlantic season. HurricaneBilly dispersed harmlessly in the Atlantic but Hurricane Dannycaused flooding in Alabama and South Carolina.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.

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