MIAMI – The Gulf Coast and the Caribbean are on alert this weekend as tropical storms Laura and Marco move towards the southern United States with at least one of them becoming a hurricane.
According to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), Laura at 2:00 pm local time was located 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and 125 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Its maximum wind speed was 50 mph.
Laura caused heavy rainfall throughout eastern Puerto Rico, where a magnitude-3.3 earthquake was also recorded on Saturday at 9:25 pm in the southwest of the island, with no reports of damage.
Nearly 200,000 people were left without electricity and 13,700 without water, while the island witnessed flooding and some material damages during the passage of the storm.
A total of 22 shelters were set up in preparation for the passage of the storm over Puerto Rico.
The tropical storm also caused heavy rainfall in the Dominican Republic on Saturday night as all the 32 provinces in the country were put on alert.
Laura, which formed on Friday, was expected to cause further rainfall, accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds, in the Dominican Republic amounting to between 150 and 200 millimeters in some areas.
Laura is expected to cross the Dominican Republic late Sunday although rains would continue in the southern part, according to the country’s meteorological office.
Of the 32 provinces in the country, 18, including Santo Domingo, were on red alert, eight in yellow alert, and six in green.
The authorities in the US Virgin Islands reported that the tropical storm hit that territory with sustained winds of 41 mph on Saturday, although there have been no reports of major damages.
According to the NHC, during the weekend, Laura was expected to pass through the Dominican Republic and Haiti before moving towards Cuba.
The Cuban government has issued a warning ahead of the impending storm for its eastern provinces, and the Bahamas has issued an alert for the island of Andros.
Laura could turn into a hurricane after leaving Cuba and moving westwards through the Gulf of Mexico before reaching the US.
Apart from Laura, the storm Marco has been moving from the Caribbean Sea in the northwestern direction over the Yucatan Channel with winds of 65 mph.
This storm could become a hurricane in the next few hours as it moves towards the Gulf of Mexico, before weakening and reaching the US.
At 1800 GMT Saturday, Marco was located 50 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba and 540 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River in the US.
According to NHC, Marco is expected to make landfall in the US in the southern state of Texas or Louisiana on Monday, while Laura could do so two days later.
A hurricane alert has been issued from the Intracoastal City, Louisiana to the border of Mississippi with Alabama.
This year’s hurricane season in the Atlantic has been categorized as “extremely active” with up to 11 hurricanes expected to form in the region, and up to six of them could become severe.