Tropical Storm Beryl moving closer to eastern Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Tropical Storm Beryl moved rapidly westward early Sunday, heading for the Lesser Antilles at the eastern entrance of the Caribbean Sea.

Although what had been the Atlantic season’s first hurricane was losing power, residents on islands hit hard by storms last year stocked up on food and water and prepared for possible damaging winds, rains and waves.

A tropical storm warning was up on Guadeloupe and Dominica, while a tropical storm watch was issued for the French Caribbean territories of Martinique, St. Martin and St. Barts as well as St. Maarten, Barbados, St. Lucia, Saba and St. Eustatius. Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September, remained under a state of emergency.

On Dominica, which also was battered by Maria, the island’s meteorological service warned residents that the weather would likely begin deteriorating Saturday late night and that at least four inches of rain could fall before the storm passed over or near Dominica on Sunday night.

Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told people to store water because the government would be shutting down the water system as a protective measure, and he warned them to stay alert despite’s the storm weakening. “They should not let their guard down,” he said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Beryl’s maximum sustained winds remained 45 mph (75 kph) early Sunday. It was centered 435 miles (705 kilometers) east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at 18 mph (30 kph).

Long lines were reported Saturday at grocery stores on Dominica, Puerto Rico and elsewhere as people shopped for food and water3

“Here’s hoping it misses us,” said one shopper, Sandra Whitcher, who owns the Coffeeriver Cottages on Dominica. She said workmen had fortified the roofs on all seven cottages that survived Hurricane Maria. “I can’t say I’m not scared, but I know we have prepared as much as we can possibly do.”

Forecasters said Beryl would likely weaken further after crossing the Lesser Antilles. It was predicted to pass south of Puerto Rico on Monday as a tropical depression, but forecasters warned that the storm-wracked U.S. territory could see up to 30 mph winds and heavy rains that could cause flooding and mudslides.

Off the U.S. East Coast, a tropical depression meandered well out to sea from the North Carolina shore. Forecasters said it posed no immediate threat to land and would likely become a tropical storm by Sunday before beginning moving farther out into the Atlantic on Tuesday.

That storm was centered about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras late Saturday, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph). It was stationary and only minimal movement was expected in the next few days. (AP)