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Hurricane Irene Near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Irene strengthened into a hurricane Monday and warnings were posted for several Caribbean Islands, the National Hurricane Center said.

Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 hurricane season, prompted hurricane warnings for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra and the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from the Haiti border east to Cabo Engano, the center said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.

Winds whipped across Puerto Rico as Irene ran parallel to the island and skimmed the northern coast, El Nuevo Dia said. Roads were passable but parts of the island were without power.

Dorado Mayor Carlos Lopez said the aftermath was less than he anticipated.

“Although we had quite a few strong gusts, the damages are not what you anticipated,” Lopez said.

A hurricane watch was posted for the northern coast of Haiti from Le Mole St. Nicholas east to the Dominican Republic border and the central Bahamas.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engano west to the Haiti border, all of Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Irene, a Category 1 hurricane, was about 25 miles west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and about 125 miles east of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, was moving west-northwesterly at 12 mph.

The center said Irene was expected to move away from Puerto Rico and near or over the northern coastal regions of the Dominican Republic Monday afternoon and evening, NHC said. The storm was expected to strengthen over the next two days.

Irene is expected to produce rainfall of 5-10 inches across Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Isolated amounts of up to 20 inches could be possible. The rain could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in areas of steep terrain, the center said.

The Christian humanitarian group World Vision was pre-positioning supplies and gearing up its staff across camps in Haiti Monday to help residents prepare for the hurricane, CNN reported.

“We are concerned that vulnerable families still living in temporary camps won’t treat this storm as a serious threat, after Tropical Storm Emily didn’t hit Port-au-Prince as predicted,” World Vision’s Meg Sattler in Port-au-Prince said. “If flooding hits, people living in unsafe housing will be the worst affected. Heavy rain has the potential to worsen sanitation conditions in camps, which, with cholera still so prevalent in Haiti, is a major concern.”

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

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