Earthquake rattles Puerto Rico as Tropical Storm Karen approaches
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Forecasters said Tropical Storm Karen would unleash heavy rains across the northeastern Caribbean on Tuesday that could cause flooding and landslides in Puerto Rico and nearby islands.
As the storm approached, Puerto Ricans were trying to compose themselves after being shaken from their beds late Monday by a magnitude-6.0 earthquake that hit in the Atlantic near the island at a shallow depth of 6 miles. Three aftershocks, of magnitude 4.7 and 4.6, followed within less than an hour.
No damage was reported, and communications after the quake were swift because authorities were already on duty for Karen, said Kiara Hernández, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency.
Schools and government offices were already ordered closed in Puerto Rico as well as in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, with officials warning people to stay indoors.
“We’ve had a number of these events now, and I know it’s like the little boy who cried wolf, but I’m urging the public to remain ever vigilant,” U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said.
Karen regained tropical storm strength Tuesday morning after having been a tropical depression. Its maximum sustained winds increased to 40 mph with additional strengthening expected. The storm was centered about 85 miles south of San Juan and moving north near 7 mph.
It was expected to keep heading north after passing over Puerto Rico and stay well east of the Bahamas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. A tropical storm warning remained in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and forecasters said certain areas could experience stronger winds.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez activated the National Guard on Monday and urged people in flood-prone areas to seek shelter.
The island is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which hit as a Category 4 storm two years ago and is estimated to have caused more than $100 billion in damage. More than 25,000 homes still have blue tarps for roofs and the electric grid remains unstable.
“It’s a reality that we might have power outages,” Vázquez said.
Roberto García, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s San Juan office, said 2 to 4 inches (5-10 centimeters) of rain was expected, with up to 8 inches in isolated areas, by the time the storm passed by on Tuesday. He added that some towns in the eastern part of Puerto Rico would likely be hit with moderate to serious flooding, especially those next to mountains.
Farther north, Tropical Storm Jerry was moving northward and was projected to pass near Bermuda by Wednesday morning. It was about 275 miles southwest of Bermuda and had sustained winds of 60 mph.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lorenzo formed over the far eastern Atlantic and was projected to become a major hurricane by the end of the week, though while curving out over open sea away from land. It was centered about 310 miles southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. It was heading west-northwest at 16 mph.