SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Philippe made landfall Monday in the tiny island of Barbuda as the erratic storm unleashed heavy rains and flash floods in the northeast Caribbean.
The storm was about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east-southeast of St. Martin on Monday night. Top sustained winds were at 50 mph (85 kph) with higher gusts, and Philippe was moving west-northwest at 7 mph (11 kph). The storm is expected to eventually spin north into the open Atlantic, where it could strengthen into a hurricane around midweek, forecasters say.
The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda was expected to be slammed with the strongest winds and heaviest rains as the storm moves away from the archipelago, forecasters said. Schools on both islands would close on Tuesday, officials said.
The storm moved a bit further west than had been initially expected, with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology saying Philippe has not been a “well-behaved” storm or predictable in its trajectory. Initially, it was projected to hit Puerto Rico as a depression.
The storm forced Antigua-based regional airline LIAT to cancel several flights and prompted officials to announce the closure of schools on Tuesday in the French Caribbean territories of St. Martin and St. Barts.
Philippe was forecast to turn north-northwest by late Tuesday and then north on Wednesday into open waters.
Rainfall amounts expected through Tuesday include 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) for Antigua and Barbuda and 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) for the rest of the Leeward Islands, the hurricane center reported.
Heavy rainfall from Philippe also could produce isolated to scattered flash flooding across Antigua and Barbuda through Tuesday, according to the advisory.
Officials in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe warned of copious rains starting Monday afternoon, with accumulation of up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) in some areas.
Forecasters said strong wind shear is expected to prevent Philippe from strengthening in coming days, but shifting conditions could allow it to become a hurricane later in the week.
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