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Caribbean Islands Brace for Hurricane Omar

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blue-vortex.jpgPuerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other popular parts of the Caribbean are bracing for Hurricane Omar, a Category 2 storm that is expected to slam into the islands on Thursday.

Omar, the 15th storm of the season, formed north of Curacao on Tuesday. It morphed from a tropical storm into a hurricane yesterday, and currently has sustained winds of 85 miles per hour. As of Wednesday morning it was situated 235 miles southwest of the island of St. Croix, and was heading in northeasterly direction at nine miles per hour.

According to the National Hurricane Center, a hurricane warning has been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques, Culebra, St. Martin/Maarten, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis. A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning are in effect for Puerto Rico, but that could be upgraded to a hurricane watch later today.

Several cruise lines including Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Disney have re-routed ships that were originally headed to ports such as St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk, and St. Maarten.

On Tuesday Omar wreaked havoc on the coast of Venezuela, where it caused blackouts and put a temporary halt to shipping at one of the country’s main oil terminals. A refinery in St. Croix which supplies 338,000 barrels a day to the U.S. mainland was also shut down in anticipation of the storm.

Omar may bring as much as 12 inches of rain to the Netherlands Antilles and 20 inches to Puerto Rico and the northern Leeward Islands. Those rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Related links:
USA Today, Bloomberg, Reuters, National Hurricane Center

By Karen Elowitt for