Hurricane Omar could hit islands at Cat. 2
People in the Northern Leeward Islands are bracing for a strike tonight and tomorrow by Hurricane Omar. The hurricane is now a Category 1 storm with top sustained winds of 85 mph. But forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect the storm will grow to Cat. 2 status before landfall, with top winds of at least 96 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
UPDATE: At 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday Omar was upgraded to a Cat. 2 storm, with top sustained winds of nearly 105 mph. Earlier post resumes:
"It also isn't out of the question that Omar could achieve major hurricane status (Cat. 3, 111 mph) just before the cyclone reaches the northern Leeward Islands," forecasters said today. But drier air from the northwest could still intrude and weaken the storm before landfall.
Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the storm.
Omar sprang up yesterday in the Eastern Caribbean just north of the Dutch Antilles, and pummeled those islands - Aruba. Bonaire and Curacao - with heavy winds and rain.
Now forecasters have posted hurricane warnings for the U.S. Virgin Islands and the small islands east of Puerto Rico - Vieques and Culebra. Also under warnings now are St. Martin/Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Barthelemy, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis.
Puerto Rico itself is under a Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warnings. TS warnings are also posted for Antigua, Barbuda and Montserrat.
Omar this morning was centered 235 miles southwest of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was moving to the northeast at about 9 mph. Hurricane force winds were limited to a fairly small radius - just 15 miles from the center. But communities in its path can expect tropical-storm-force winds 115 miles from the center. Five to 10 inches of rain are also possible in Puerto Rico and the other islands, which may trigger flash floods and mudslides.