Tropical Storm Karen speeds up after soaking Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Posted at 7:28 AM, Sep 25, 2019

Tropical Storm Karen drenched south-central Puerto Rico, causing a river to wash away a bridge and cutting off at least 15 families, the National Weather Service said late Tuesday.

Even as Karen moves away from the US territory, it'll bring heavy rainfall, strong thunderstorms and flooding threats through Wednesday, forecasters said.

"This could be enough to bring down trees, and the infrastructure for power is still weak after Maria, so I anticipate power outages," CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. "Strong rip currents will also be a danger for the next few days."

By Wednesday morning, the center of Karen was 155 miles north-northeast of San Juan. The storm was hurling sustained winds up to 45 mph as it moved north at 14 mph.

"On the forecast track, the center of Karen will continue to move farther away from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today through Thursday," though rains over those places are expected to continue Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

After leaving Puerto Rico, Karen is forecast to remain a tropical storm in the Atlantic for the next few days, not directly impacting land. Longer term, its direction and longevity is uncertain.

By storm's end, Karen will generally have dropped up to 6 inches of rain in Puerto Rico, with some isolated areas getting up to 8 inches. "These rains may cause flash flooding and mudslides, especially in mountainous areas," the hurricane center said .

The area of Coamo, where the bridge was destroyed, was inaccessible Tuesday night, said Gabriel Lojero, a meteorologist for the service in the capital of San Juan.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced announced a price freeze order that covers gas, diesel and other essential products.

"We emphasize to the citizens to prepare with caution and evaluate if they need to go to a shelter," she tweeted Monday.

School is suspended Wednesday, Vázquez announced. Puerto Rico's Department of Education said on Monday that it's "taking the necessary measures" to guarantee security during the storm.