Tropical Storm Chantal on Course to Caribbean’s Islands

Tropical Storm Chantal churned across the Atlantic on a course toward the Lesser Antilles, including the islands of Martinique and Saint Lucia.

The storm was 45 miles (72 kilometers) north-northwest of Barbados with top winds of 50 miles per hour, moving west-northwest at 26 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory before 8 a.m. New York time. Chantal is forecast to move through the Lesser Antilles today and approach the Dominican Republic tomorrow.

“Tropical storm conditions expected to reach the southeastern portion of the Dominican Republic by Wednesday morning,” the Center said in the advisory. “Tropical storm conditions are possible in Haiti by late Wednesday.”

Chantal is the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The powerful systems can disrupt oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, petroleum refining and fuel distribution along the Gulf and East Coasts and threaten orange crops in Florida, the second-largest producer behind Brazil.

An estimated 4.2 million homes with about $1.1 trillion in property exposure are within storm-surge risk zones along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts, according to CoreLogic Inc. in Irvine, California, a property analysis company.

Storm Warnings

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Martinique, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico as well as the Dominican Republic’s southern coast from Cabo Engano to Haiti’s border. Watches are in effect for Haiti, St. Vincent, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques and Culebra and the Dominican Republic’s northern coast, the Turks and Caicos islands and the southeastern Bahamas, the hurricane center said.

A storm warning means high winds, rain and waves will probably hit within 36 hours. A watch means those conditions are possible.

Chantal will probably come within 100 miles of Puerto Rico today, bringing gusty winds and rain to the island, said Dan Kottlowski, an AccuWeather meteorologist in State College, Pennsylvania.

Tropical storm-strength winds reach out 90 miles from Chantal’s center. The storm is expected to drop 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain, with some areas receiving as much as 6 inches.

Wind Shear

Chantal’s top winds may reach 70 mph, under the 74 mph threshold needed to be classified a hurricane, according to the center. The mountains of Hispaniola will probably weaken the storm.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the nations which share Hispaniola, may get as much as 10 inches of rain as Chantal skirts the coastline, Kottlowski said. Haiti in particular is susceptible to landslides when heavy rains fall in its mountainous areas.

“If it really slows down, we could be looking at a huge amount of rain over Hispaniola,” he said.

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