Hurricane Beryl heads for Caribbean islands; separate tropical depression forms near Carolinas

Hurricane Beryl heads for Caribbean islands; separate tropical depression forms near Carolinas

The year's first Atlantic hurricane weakened Saturday morning into a tropical storm, but Caribbean islands struck by last year's devastating hurricanes are still on alert. Meteorologist Marshall Alexander told The Associated Press that officials were anxious about those still living with tarps on their roofs after Maria slammed into Dominica as a Category 5 storm a year ago, killing dozens of people.

As of Friday evening, Beryl had winds of 80 miles per hour and was continuing to move west.

In an 11 p.m. advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm continued to intensify Friday with sustained winds reaching 80 miles per hour. The updated NHC forecast shows Beryl reaching the Lesser Antilles as a tropical storm, but it is possible that the system will have degenerated into an open trough by that time.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Chris is forecast to become a hurricane on Monday.

It is barely moving with no significant motion expected in the next day. It was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico on Monday as a tropical depression, but forecasters warned the storm-wracked USA territory could see up to 30 miles per hour winds and heavy rains that could cause flooding and mudslides.

Life threatening surf and rip current conditions could occur as swells generated by the depression affect portions of the North Carolina coast. How these factors come into balance will be crucial in determining how strong Beryl is when it moves through the Lesser Antilles Sunday afternoon into Sunday night.

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A tropical storm watch was issued for the French Caribbean territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Barts.

"Beryl has continued to weaken today, but there is still a chance of some islands in the Lesser Antilles receiving direct impacts from wind and rainfall, where tropical storm warnings and watches remain in effect", forecasters reported.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency for the island and suspended work for Monday. But it now looks like Beryl will maintain hurricane strength as it crosses the islands late Sunday or early Monday, they said.

Rodriguez said he doesn't think Puerto Rico is ready for another storm, "not even a small one".

A tropical depression off the coast of the Carolinas now has a proper name.

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