TROPICAL UPDATE | Puerto Rico expects heavy rain from Beryl remnants


YABUCOA, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands braced for heavy rains and strong winds Monday as remnants of the new season’s first hurricane provided an initial test of how far they’ve recovered from last year’s devastating storms.

Tropical Storm Beryl disintegrated after rushing over Dominica and into the eastern Caribbean, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the remnants still could bring 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) of rain pounding down on homes still damaged by September’s Hurricane Maria. Forecasters said this could unleash flooding and landslides in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Outages were already reported across Puerto Rico early Monday as Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged people without sturdy roofs to move in with relatives or go to one of 14 government shelters that have opened.

Some 60,000 people in the U.S. territory still have only tarps for roofs blown off by Maria, and more than 1,500 customers are still without power more than nine months after the storm.

The Category 5 hurricane caused more than an estimated $100 billion in damage, killed dozens of people by the most conservative estimates and destroyed up to 75 percent of electricity transmission lines.

The National Weather Service issued an alert warning that heavy showers and winds of more than 50 mph (80 kph) were approaching Puerto Rico’s east coast Monday morning. The storm’s center was expected to pass just south of the island.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, meanwhile, announced that schools and government offices would be closed in St. Croix.

Beryl, which had been the Atlantic season’s first hurricane, was losing tropical storm status late Sunday when it crossed Dominica, another island that had been battered by Hurricane Maria, which hit as a Category 5 storm and killed dozens of people.

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