The U.S. Coast Guard issued a small craft advisory for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as the weather system, designated Tropical Storm Matthew passes through the southern Caribbean.
Matthew, which reached the level of tropical storm Wednesday, is not expected to directly threaten the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the National Weather Service, but trailing edges of the storm could bring rain and rough seas.
The Coast Guard warned swimmers, recreational boaters and the general public to exercise caution and to stay away from shoreline rocks and other potentially dangerous coastal areas until weather and surf conditions normalize.
Small craft advisories are in effect for much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday evening, and the Coast Guard warned of an increase in rip currents throughout the area.
The NWS issued a tropical storm warning for Guadeloupe and Martinique, St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands. A tropical storm watch, which means storm conditions are possible in a 48-hour period, was issued Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba.
Weather watchers cautioned interests along the coast of Venezuela and Colombia to monitor the storm.
At 8 p.m. Wednesday the center of Tropical Storm Matthew was near latitude 13.9 North, longitude 62.4 West. Matthew’s forward speed has decreased, the National Hurricane Center noted, and the storm is now moving toward west at almost 15 mph. Forecasters predicted a continued westward motion with some additional decrease in forward speed during the next couple of days.
If the storm maintains its current track, the center of Matthew will continue to move away from the Windward Islands Wednesday evening and be over the eastern and central Caribbean Sea through Friday.
Data from a reconnaissance flight Wednesday indicated the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 65 mph with higher gusts. Tropical Storm Matthew is expected to continue strengthening during the next couple of days and it is forecast to become a hurricane by Friday.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles primarily to the northeast of the center, which could bring some rain and high seas to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The U.S. Coast Guard remained vigilant Wednesday in anticipation of Matthew’s passing south of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Thursday and Friday.
"Mariners, boaters, swimmers and the general public should make preparations and monitor official weather updates and any active small craft advisories as this tropical storm moves through the area," said Capt. Robert Warren, Sector San Juan commander and captain of the Port San Juan. "We will continue to monitor the winds and sea conditions in our area of responsibility."
The Coast Guard requested that the public not call Coast Guard facilities for weather information, but that they listen to weather broadcasts and track internet updates at the National Hurricane Center (See Related Links, below.)
The Coast Guard offered the following tips to help mariners protect themselves, their families and their vessels:
– Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat if you know bad weather is approaching and pay close attention to any official and active small craft advisories.
– Seek shelter at the first sign of heavy weather. While en route, secure boat and prepare passengers for possible rough water, heavy rains and high winds: have all aboard put on life jackets.
– Boaters and coastal residents can get storm and hurricane information from VHF marine radios, commercial radio, television stations, newspapers or NOAA weather radios.
– Contact local marinas to ask for advice about securing your vessel. Marina operators are knowledgeable and can advise you on the best methods for securing your boat.
– Take action now. The effects of a tropical storm can be felt well in advance of its arrival and can prevent the safe completion of preparations.