Oct. 14, 2008 – As things now stand, Tropical Storm Omar will be Category 2 Hurricane Omar when the center passes directly over St. Croix around midnight Wednesday.
"Winds will be 96 to 110 mph," meteorologist Scott Stripling at the National Weather Service said around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The storm is expected to pass through the Anegada passage, but since the storm is huge, St. Thomas and St. John will get plenty of bad weather, Stripling said.
Tropical Storm Omar started the day as Tropical Depression 15, but by the 11 a.m. update had reached tropical storm status. Forecasters still thought it would still be a tropical storm when it reached the Virgin Islands, but by the 5 p.m. update, they changed their minds.
"It was stronger than we thought," Stripling said.
Additionally, the upper level wind shear, which minimizes development of storms, decreased. This allows the storm to intensify.
The territory is on a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning.
At 5:30 p.m., St. Croix was already feeling light rain, with the showers expected to hit the northern islands several hours later.
"Then you'll have a break till morning, but shortly after sunrise, you'll start to see some outer bands," Stripling said.
Stripling expects a storm surge of two to three feet, with wave action on top of the surge.
"Some of the strongest storm surge will be on the south coast of St. John and the BVI," he said.
As of the 5 p.m. Tuesday update, Tropical Storm Omar was nearing hurricane strength with winds of 70 mph and gusts to 85 mph. Tropical storm force winds extend out 90 miles, mainly east and south of the center.
The storm was centered at 14 degrees north latitude and 68.5 degrees west longitude. The barometric pressure stood at 982 millibars or 28.99 inches.
The storm was moving east northeast at 6 mph. It was expected to turn late Tuesday or early Wednesday to the northeast.
Flash floods and mudslides are expected across the territory.
Stripling urged boaters anchored on the west coast of St. Croix to seek a safe haven because he expects that area to get hammered.
Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at V.I. National Park, said that Hurricane Hole opened Tuesday morning as a safe haven for boaters.
"A number of people are going out there," he said, adding that he just came in from boarding up the park's Biosphere Reserve offices.
While Hurricane Hole is the only safe haven on St. John, Water Island, Benner Bay, Mandahl Pond, and Flamingo Bay serve as safe havens for boaters on St. Thomas. On St. Croix, Salt River is the safe haven.
Planning and Natural Resources Department spokesman Jamal Nielsen has sharp words for boaters.
"Don't stay on your boat in a storm," he admonished.
As Tropical Storm Omar neared the Virgin Islands, residents prepared.
"We'll close up the house and take everything in," St. John resident Barbara Alperen said.