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Hurricane Erika Whips Up Strong Winds, Big Waves

Weather: Storm pounds northeastern shore of Puerto Rico. Some undaunted islanders go surfing in San Juan.

September 08, 1997|From Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Erika churned the Atlantic seas with 110 mph winds Sunday while some islanders ignored warnings of choppy waters and strong undercurrents to frolic and surf in San Juan.

Erika whipped up high waves and swells, battering the northeastern shore of Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service warned that an increase in swells could force the evacuation of several coastal areas in and around San Juan, the capital.

Nevertheless, authorities canceled a hurricane watch at 5 p.m. EDT, when Erika was turning slowly away from land. By 11 p.m. EDT, the storm was 275 miles northeast of San Juan and was moving north about 7 mph and was expected to head toward the North Atlantic during the next 24 hours.

"Waves cresting at 10 to 15 feet continue pummeling coastal areas, causing beach erosion and flooding highways near the coastline. The damage is worst in the coastal areas from Dorado to Loiza," the National Weather Service said of a 25-mile stretch that includes San Juan.

The Virgin Islands received some heavy rain Sunday, and a yacht broke its moorings and crashed ashore on the British colony of Anguilla, but otherwise, Erika's damaging edge was mainly over the open Atlantic.

On Saturday, several northeastern islands escaped with brief bursts of rain and strong gusts.

Sunday brought 4 inches of rain to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where about 100 families still live under tarpaulins replacing roofs torn off by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.

"We're mopping from yesterday [Saturday]," said Carol Stagger, who lives with her 76-year-old mother, Elizabeth Stagger, in a three-story home in Hospital Ground. "It's terrible because you're wet all the time. It's pouring all the time."

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In Puerto Rico, where heavy rain was expected, there were a few sporadic showers in the interior but no rain at all in San Juan, where the sun began shining through the clouds late in the afternoon. At Isla Verde, a popular tourist beach, dozens of people frolicked and surfed in relatively small waves.

A few miles away, battering waves swamped the road from Loiza to Carolina, causing authorities to close seaside Route 187.

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