A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands as Gonzalo continues to strengthen just a few hundred miles east of the Leeward Islands. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.
According to the National Hurricane Center, at 5 p.m., the center of Tropical Storm Gonzalo was located at was located near Latitude 16.4 degrees north, Longitude 59.5 degrees west. Gonzalo is moving toward the west near 12 miles per hour and this general motion is expected to continue through Monday followed by a turn toward the west-northwest Monday night.
On the forecast track, Gonzalo is expected to move through the central Leeward Islands by early Monday morning and approach the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Reports from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 45 miles per hour with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Gonzalo is expected to become a hurricane by early Tuesday morning.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center.
Gonzalo is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 4 to 8 inches across the US Virgin Islands with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches possible. Swells generated by Gonzalo will affect the Leeward Islands tonight and reach the US Virgin Islands by Monday afternoon. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
VITEMA Acting Director Austin Callwood is urging the public to begin preparations for storm impact and to continue monitoring the system.
“Based on storms projections, we anticipate significant rainfall and strong winds and we are urging the public to get ready and be prepared,” Callwood said. “Be sure to have essentials items in the event there may be extended power outages and prepare your properties. Special considerations should also be given to the needs children, the elderly and pets.”
VITEMA is also advising the public to closely monitor VI Alert or stay tuned to a NOAA weather radio, local radio or cable television stations for later statements and possible warnings.
VITEMA’s Emergency Operations Centers territorywide will be activated at noon on Monday, Callwood said.
Earlier today, VITEMA and FEMA Region II officials were briefed by the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service – San Juan Forecast Office. A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) is expected to be on ground on Monday, Callwood said.