Tropical Storm Irene Forms 460 Miles East of St. Croix; Tropical Storm Warning Issued for Virgin Islands and its Coastal Waters Flash Flood Watch Remains in Effect Through Monday Afternoon

The National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center has upgraded the large tropical wave located about 460 miles east of St. Croix to Tropical Storm Irene, and has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Tropical Storm conditions, heavy rainfall and gusty winds, will impact the Virgin Islands.

According to the National Hurricane Center, at 7 p.m., the center of Tropical Storm Irene was located near Latitude 14.9N and Longitude 58.5W. Irene is moving toward the west near 22 miles per hour and a motion toward west-northwest at a slower rate of speed is expected during the next 48 hours.

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicates that maximum sustained winds are near 50 miles per hour with higher gusts. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 120 miles mainly to the north and east of the center.

The National Hurricane Center placed the Virgin Islands under Tropical Storm Warning and at about 8 p.m. the National Weather Service at San Juan also issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the Virgin Islands and its coastal waters. A Flash Flood Watch issued earlier today also remains in effect until Monday afternoon.

Earlier this evening, the National Weather Service at San Juan briefed Governor John P. de Jongh Jr., VITEMA Director Elton Lewis and other key government officials on the possible impact of this weather system to the Virgin Islands. The National Weather Services is forecasting 4 to 6 inches of rain with higher amounts in isolated areas for the Virgin Islands, as well as storm force winds of up to 50 miles per hour with higher gusts of between 60 to 70 miles per hour. Another briefing is scheduled for at 9 p.m. tonight.

All emergency response agencies, including Department of Public Works, the Water and Power Authority, the VI National Guard and the VI Police Department reported that preparations were already underway. VITEMA also will activate its Emergency Operations Centers territorywide at 6 a.m. on Sunday. Contact has also been made with the Federal Emergency Management Agency which has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to the Territory.

VITEMA and the National Weather Service are urging citizens to begin preparedness steps to protect life and property. It is important to actively listen for forthcoming information from the National Weather Service Office at San Juan and VITEMA.

Mariners also are urged to make all necessary preparations to return to port and to seek safe harbor and secure their craft. Now is the time to initiate preparations according to your emergency plan for tropical systems and to monitor weather broadcasts for changes to the latest forecast and listen for further statements from VITEMA.

“We urge everyone to closely monitor local radio and television for updated information on Tropical Storm Irene, and to make sure they are ready in the event a storm impacts the Territory,” Lewis said. “Everyone should have an emergency plan for staying in contact with family in the event of a disaster and an emergency supply kit with essential items to last for a minimum of three days.”

VITEMA will continue to keep the public informed of this developing system. Stay tuned to local radio, TV, NOAA weather radio and VI Alert for updated information.