Sept. 22, 2002 – Forecasters said Sunday afternoon that what now is still Tropical Depression 13 is expected to pass about 150 miles south of St. Croix as Hurricane Lily by late Tuesday and early Wednesday. However, meteorologist Andy Roche at the National Weather Service in San Juan cautioned that it is still too early to say exactly where the storm will go.
"Long-range forecasts are less accurate. We have to monitor it closely," he said.
Roche said that forecasters expect Lily to be a Category 1 hurricane, which has sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph. "But conditions can change dramatically," he said.
Residents in the Virgin Islands found that out the hard way when forecasters expected 1995's Hurricane Marilyn to be minimal. Instead, the storm picked up strength as it neared the Virgin Islands and caused extensive damage, especially on St. Thomas.
Roche said the center of Tropical Depression 13 is ahead of the convection, the cell of vertical activity as warm, moist air rises, cools and condenses, and then falls. This, Roche said, indicates the system will not strengthen. However, should the convection catch up with center, he said, strengthening will occur.
At the National Weather Service 5 p.m. update on Sunday, Tropical Depression 13 was centered at 12.1 degrees north latitude and 54 degrees west longitude, putting it about 395 miles east of the Windward Islands. With a wind speed of 35 mph, it was moving westward at 23 mph. The barometric pressure stood at 29.68 inches.
Tropical storm watches — which are issued preliminary to storm warnings — have been posted from Guadeloupe south to the Grenadines and Barbados.
Alvis Christian, deputy director for the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency for St. John, said on Sunday that residents should be prepared for the worst. "Make sure your documents are secured," he said, ticking off a lengthy list of things people should have ready as routine preparations for hurricane season.
People who need medications should have a good supply on hand, Christian said, and everyone should stockpile food, including canned goods, and drinking water. He also said that residents should have a plan for dealing with their pets and know where emergency shelters are located in case they need to utilize them.
Because it was Sunday, the VITEMA headquarters on St. Thomas was closed, and information on shelters on St. Thomas and St. Croix was not available.
If a hurricane threatens the territory, Christian said, St. John residents with mobility problems should plan on using the shelter at the Bethany Moravian Church fellowship hall. People who need 24-hour care would be housed at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center. However, it's necessary to notify the health center or the Human Services Department now to get on the list for admission. All other people seeking emergency shelter would be housed at Emmaus Moravian Church.
Should there prove to be a need, Christian added, shelters would be opened first at the Methodist Church and then at Julius E. Sprauve School.
While many residents were checking the Weather Channel at each update, St. John resident Sharon Ehle was surprised to learn a storm is out there. Ehle said she normally pays more attention to the weather but was busy this weekend with other things. However, she's ready. "It only takes a couple of hours to close the house up, and my boat's out of the water," she said.
Ehle was philosophical about the possibility of a storm hitting or coming close. "There's absolutely nothing you can do about it," she said.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.