Tropical Storm Rafael Targets Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico

October 14, 2012; 10:00 AM
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Tropical Storm Rafael is currently moving away from the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico this morning.

Rafael will continue to maintain tropical storm strength as it tracks towards the north-northwest. Although the storm is moving away from the islands, heavy rains and gusty winds will continue.

Sheets of rain and wind is expected to drench many of the region's islands, some to the point of flooding. Low lying areas, and those with poor drainage, such as urban areas, will be most at risk for flooding.

Inches of rainfall are likely due to the slow-moving nature of the storm. Continuous rainfall in the mountainous islands could create a problem with mudslides. As the rains soak the soils, whole hillsides can turn into a fast-moving sheet of mud.

The strongest winds of Rafael will likely occur in the US Virgin Islands, just to the right of the storm's center. Damaging gusts past 60 miles per hour are expected, certainly fast enough to cause damage.

On top of rain and wind concerns, rough surf will pound the southern shores of the region, with waves reaching as high a 8 feet over the open water. Such surf usually brings rip currents, which can easily pull unsuspecting swimmers out to sea.

Lastly, the continuous rainfall in the mountainous region could create a problem with mudslides. As the rains soak the soils, whole hillsides can turn into a fast-moving sheet of mud.

Rafael won't be finished after impacting the Antilles. The storm is currently set to impact Bermuda as early as Tuesday morning. How strong the system will be when it passes Bermuda is unclear. There may be an opening for Rafael to strengthen, becoming a hurricane late Monday or early Tuesday.

Even if Rafael is stronger when it passes Bermuda, it will be moving much quicker by that point, so the window for impacts will be generally smaller.

Rafael may then take aim at Newfoundland around Wednesday night.

Home page caption image provided by Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies

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