Tropical storm Fiona follows Hurricane Earl

ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Tuesday August 31, 2010 – As residents of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and other Leeward Islands continue to clean up from the flooding caused by Hurricane Earl over the past two days, they’ve been told to brace for another tropical storm which could pass by them as early as tomorrow.

Tropical Storm Fiona formed about 890 miles east of the Leeward Islands yesterday evening as Earl became a Category Four Hurricane and moved away from the US Virgin Islands, hours after drenching Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and St Maarten.

Those countries, along with Montserrat, Saba and St Eustatius are all under a tropical storm watch, less than 24 hours after being removed from hurricane watch as a result of Earl’s passing. A tropical storm warning is in effect for St Martin and St Barthelemy.

“Interests elsewhere in the northern Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of Fiona,” the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said today, adding that additional watches or warnings may be required later today.

Fiona, with maximum sustained winds of about 40 miles per hour , was this morning about 500 miles east of the Leeward Islands was moving west-northwest near 24 miles per hour. A gradual turn toward the northwest with a decrease in forward speed is anticipated over the next two days.

“On the forecast track, the centre of Fiona is expected to pass near or northeast of the northern Leeward Islands early Wednesday,” the NHC advised.

Tropical storm conditions could spread over portions of the northern Leeward Islands tonight or early tomorrow.

Meantime, residents of the countries hit by Hurricane Earl, are still getting their houses in order.

In Antigua and Barbuda, there was no loss of life or serious injuries reported, or major damage to homes, but flooding was widespread. Eight people had to be rescued from a house in the south of the island, in a community where residents had ordered to evacuate, after they were trapped by flood waters.

The Director of the National Office of Disaster Services, Philmore Mullin, said he was disappointed that some people did not heed the warning to evacuate flood-prone, low-lying areas. There was a similar concern expressed by Red Cross Director, Gerald Price, who suggested that laws be passed to force people to move when authorities recommend evacuation.

The VC Bird International Airport reopened yesterday afternoon and the port resumed operations from 7 am today. 

Electricity service was also restored for most residents overnight and into this morning.

Supply had been cut since Sunday evening when a lightning strike knocked out the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) system and the company decided that, in the interest of safety and to protect its system, it would not bring it back online until the damage was assessed. APUA teams did their assessments yesterday and from late evening, power was being restored to the City and other parts of the country.

Over in Anguilla, the wind blew the roofs off buildings and downed or damaged many utility poles. Coastal damage also appears to have been significant, with beach erosion likely. 

In the British Virgin Islands, Anegada was the closest of the islands to the centre of Earl and effects were mainly along the highly exposed coast. In particular, the marina appeared to have sustained significant damage. Elsewhere, reports indicate winds close to or at hurricane force, with some power lines down and some boats sunk. Localised high wind gusts and surge/wave combinations inflicted damage in scattered areas across Tortola and other islands.

In St Martin, the storm resulted in toppled trees and electricity outages across most of the island, although there were no reports of serious damage. Heavy gusts of wind swirled debris across streets that were empty due to a government imposed curfew. 

And in St Kitts and Nevis, localised flooding and some tree damage were reported, but there appeared to be no major impact.

Meantime, Hurricane Earl, with its 135 mile per hour winds, is heading towards the United States.

A tropical storm warning has been discontinued for Puerto Rico but one is in effect for Turks and Caicos Islands and a tropical storm watch is in place for southeastern Bahamas.

The NHC said storm surge flooding and waves will begin to diminish in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, but above normal tides, accompanied by large and dangerous battering waves, are possible in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas.