Omar eyes Puerto Rico

Tropical storm Omar strengthened into a hurricane and was heading straight for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning.

Omar has already drenched the southeastern region of the Caribbean, and authorities have issued hurricane warnings for St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and some Puerto Rican islands.

“Omar continues slowly northeastward, (and is) expected to strengthen,” said a bulletin on the U.S. National Hurricane Center website.

‘It’s dark, cloudy, humid and about to start raining,’ said Lizzette Molina, a Puerto Rican resident told the Caymanian Compass Wednesday morning. ‘Heavy rains are supposed to begin around midday.’

At 5am ET, the Hurricane Center reported that Omar had sustained winds of 120 km/h and the centre of the storm was located about 455 kilometres south-southeast of San Juan Puerto Rico.

Emergency officials have told residents to prepare for what may be a direct blow from the hurricane in some areas. Classes and ferry services were cancelled in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, where residents were also stockpiling batteries, water, and canned goods.

“This is the time to take those precautions, in terms of getting your family and your personal selves ready for the storm,” Emergency Management Director Mark Walters urged islanders.

Officials in Puerto Rico appealed for blood donations and told residents to prepare for a lot more rain. It had already been soaked by rainfall over the past several days.

In Honduras the government posted a tropical storm warning Wednesday as Tropical Depression 16 remained just offshore, US forecasters said.

The warning covered the entire coast from borders with Nicaragua and Guatemala, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

At 5am the centre of the depression had winds of 30 mph and was about 95 miles east of Limon, Honduras, moving west near 6 mph., forecasters said.

Strengthening to tropical storm status with sustained winds of more than 39 mph was expected Wednesday, the report said.

The centre said even a small deviation in the forward motion could bring the storm ashore over Honduras.

Rainfall of as much as eight inches was possible over northeastern Nicaragua, northern Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula with isolated amounts up to 15 inches, the report said.