Local News

Hurricane Erika Strengthens, Turns Away From...

Posted September 8, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— An intensifying Hurricane Erika turned its fury toward the North Atlantic today after brushing past Puerto Rico and stirring up 15-foot swells that flooded coastal roads.

Erika's winds strengthened to 120 mph this morning, making it a powerful Category 3 storm, meteorologists said. At 11 a.m. EDT, the storm was about 355 miles north-northeast of San Juan. It was moving north at near 7 mph and was expected to head for the North Atlantic over the next 24 hours.

Forecasters said Erika is no longer a threat to the northeastern Caribbean. Authorities canceled hurricane watches for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and officials said dangerous swells would diminish as Erika moved further north.

Elsewhere, the National Hurricane Center reported that a cluster of thunderstorms had developed midway between the African coast and the Caribbean. But forecasters said it probably would not develop into a major storm anytime soon.

Erika's predicted damaging rains never materialized, a relief to the U.S. commonwealth, which suffered flash floods and mudslides that killed most of the 20 victims of Hurricane Hortense last year.

But 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.

Taking no chance of colliding with a strengthening Erika, seven ships forming the NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic left Bermuda hurriedly Sunday, heading for safe harbor in the Azores Islands.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.