“The core of the system will be to the east and over open water,” Jesus Figueroa, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, said, meaning that the territory will get less of its wind and rain than initially expected.
The storm is strengthening, with sustained winds at 50 mph the 8 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center indicates. That’s up 10 mph since the morning and midday updates.
The center of Rafael was passing 85 miles east of St. Croix at around 8 p.m. Saturday. It will pass 70 miles east of St. John around 1 a.m. Sunday.
Figueroa said wind gusts should hit 60 mph.
Tropical storm force winds extend outward 175 miles from Rafael’s center.
Rafael is picking up speed too. The storm is moving to the north at 12 mph, up from 9 mph earlier in the day. Figueroa said the territory will experience bad weather into Sunday.
Rainfall is expected to reach three to five inches, with storm surge one to two feet above normal tide levels possible. The territory remains on a flash flood watch.
The territory remains on a tropical storm warning.
Forecasters expect Rafael to become a hurricane by Monday night.
As of the 8 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Rafael was located 105 miles east-southeast of St. Croix. The center was located at 17.9 degrees north latitude and 63.5 degrees west longitude. The barometric pressure stood at 1004 millibars or 29.65 inches.
The V.I. Port Authority announced late morning that Cape Air ceased all flights at noon.
Although the Port Authority in its press release suggested that people wanting information about the ferry service between St. Thomas and St. John call the ferry companies, no one answered the phone throughout the day at both Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures. They are the two St. John-based companies that operate the routes between the islands.
Port Authority Board Chairman Robert O’Connor Jr. said he rushed back from St. Thomas to St. John because he didn’t know what time the ferries would stop running. He said he returned to St. John on the 3 p.m. boat and there was no information posted as to the ferry companies’ plans.
Because of the likely impacts of Rafael, Sunday’s STAR-sponsored 30th Founders' Day 5K walk and run was postponed until Nov. 4.
V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Elton Lewis urged the community to complete preparations.
“While we have easily weathered stronger storms than Rafael, every storm must be taken seriously. Make sure your emergency supply kit is ready, you have a plan to communicate with family and that you closely monitor weather reports for updated information,” Lewis said.
Everyone should have an emergency supply kit stocked with enough water, dried foods and other essentials items to last for at least five days, Lewis said.
Based on the latest track information, Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. decided against imposing a curfew and will not set a price freeze, a VITEMA press release said.
“We will continue to monitor the system However, we don’t anticipate any significant impact from Tropical Storm Rafael,” Lewis said.
In the event the storm track changes, the Human Services and Health Departments personnel remain on stand-by to open shelters for the general public and the special needs population.
VITEMA has activated its Emergency Operations Centers territory-wide in response to the potential impact of Rafael. Lewis also requested support from Federal Emergency Management Agency