By Caribbean News Now contributor
MIAMI, USA — Tropical Storm Chantal passed through the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday, bringing heavy rain and high winds in some areas, and disrupting regional flights, before heading across the Caribbean Sea towards Hispaniola.
According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Tuesday, Chantal was located about 270 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and about 470 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, moving towards the west-northwest near 26 mph.
This general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days with a gradual decrease in the forward speed. On the forecast track, the centre of Chantal will continue to move away from the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday night and is expected to be near or over the Dominican Republic by Wednesday afternoon, and over the southeastern and central Bahamas on Thursday.
Maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph, with higher gusts. These winds are confined to a small area to the east the centre. Chantal is expected to be near hurricane strength before reaching Hispaniola. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles to the west of the centre.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Barahona to Samana in the Dominican Republic.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, the entire coast of the Dominican Republic, the entire coast of Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the southeastern Bahamas.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for the US Virgin Islands, Vieques and Culebra, and the central Bahamas.
Interests in eastern Cuba and the northwestern Bahamas should monitor the progress of Chantal.
Tropical storm conditions should reach Puerto Rico by Tuesday night or early Wednesday and reach the Dominican Republic on Wednesday morning. Tropical storm conditions are expected in Haiti by late Wednesday.
A storm surge, accompanied by dangerous waves, will raise water levels by the following amounts above normal tide levels: Puerto Rico 1 to 3 ft; southern and western Hispaniola 2 to 4 ft; northern Hispaniola 1 to 3 ft; southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos 1 to 3 ft.
Chantal is expected to produce rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches over the Leeward and Windward Islands, with 3 to 6 inches expected over Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, with maximum amounts of 8 inches possible.
Regional airline LIAT reported that flights throughout its network were disrupted Tuesday due to the passage of Chantal. The airline advised that all flights to and from Barbados and St Lucia had been delayed. It indicated that the George F Charles Airport in St Lucia remained closed, and that LIAT was still unable by 9:00 am on Tuesday to operate flights to and from Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados.
Lionell Ellis in Castries, speaking to Winn FM, said St Lucia took early precautions from Monday, to minimize the impact of the storm.
“The Prime Minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, he had a public announcement and asked that all schools be closed from 12 noon (Monday) so that we can get the children home,” he said. Ellis said business houses followed suit, adding that Monday night was quiet.
St Lucians were on Tuesday closely monitoring the situation as Chantal approached.
“This morning (Tuesday) and right about now (about 8am) we have visibility reduced to just a couple of miles,” the St Lucian broadcaster told WINN FM.
Barbados appears to have been spared the worst, as Chantal winds its way through the Caribbean. One resident, Marcia Rollins, said she heard a lot of rain overnight. She said there didn’t seem to have been any damage in her St Phillips community, with no reports of flooding.
In Dominica, the effects of the storm were already being felt by mid morning Tuesday. Officials were expecting the centre of the storm to pass over the island by midday. There were reports of “heavy rainfall” and “intense winds in some areas”, according to broadcaster Tyrella Alexander of state-owned DBS Radio.
“We heard some reports from the south that things have intensified in terms of rock fall, a few trees falling down and that sort of thing,” she told WINN FM.
WINN contributed to this report