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Threat from Hurricane Erika eases

Hurricane Erika

Expected to skirt Puerto Rico, turn from mainland

September 6, 1997
Web posted at: 10:37 p.m. EDT (0237 GMT)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- Hurricane Erika strengthened Saturday as it continued to churn through the eastern Caribbean, but forecasters now say that the storm is unlikely to threaten nearby islands or the East Coast of the United States.

Still, Puerto Ricans prepared for the possible onslaught by boarding up homes and businesses and stocking up on rations. Shelters also opened on the island, where the storm was generating tides three feet above normal.

Hurricane watches remained in effect for Puerto Rico and both the United States and British Virgin Islands but were expected to be lifted overnight. The storm, moving northwest, was expected to pass within about 200 miles of Puerto Rico around midnight.

Satellite image of the Caribbean

However, forecasters warned that the storm remained dangerous and that a slight turn to the west could put some Caribbean islands in its path.

Computer model of Erika

Computer models show that the danger Erika poses to the United States is diminishing, as a low pressure system along its eastern coast is expected to steer the storm north and away from land over the next 48 hours.

Erika, the third hurricane in a so-far relatively quiet Atlantic hurricane season, brought rain, winds and ocean swells to Anguilla, Antigua, St. Martin and volcano-battered Montserrat.

Many residents there who fled from the Soufriere Hills volcano were living in overcrowded shelters. When the sun began pushing through the clouds Saturday, many breathed a sign of relief.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, where plastic tarps still serve as roofs for dozens of homes damaged by hurricanes Marilyn in 1995 and Bertha in 1996, crews handed out sand bags as a precaution. Officials from the U.S. Emergency Management Agency arrived Saturday to advise local authorities.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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