Klaus Weakens, Moves Over Open Atlantic Waters
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Hurricane Klaus weakened to a tropical storm Saturday and drifted into the open waters of the Atlantic after leaving at least six dead and 1,500 homeless from flooding in Martinique.
Klaus’ winds decreased from 75 mph to 65 mph early Saturday and the National Hurricane Center in Miami said a further decrease in strength was possible over the next 24 hours.
The hurricane center lifted all storm warnings and watches that had been in effect for the islands of the northeastern Caribbean, but said small craft should avoid venturing into the northeast Caribbean until winds and seas subside.
The storm skirted Antigua on Friday, tearing roofs from houses but causing no major damage.
The storm moved from the northeastern Caribbean and into open Atlantic waters, causing rough seas but reducing the threat to island residents.
At 10:30 p.m. EDT, Klaus was centered near 19.1 degrees north latitude and 62.6 degrees west longitude, or about 75 miles north-northeast of St. Martin, according to the hurricane center. Tropical storm-force winds extended 115 miles from its center.
The system was moving northwest at about 5 mph and that general motion was expected to continue for the next 24 hours.
It was not known whether the storm would reach the continental United States.
Klaus was upgraded to a hurricane from a tropical storm Friday. Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach a sustained speed of 74 mph. Klaus is the 11th named storm and the sixth hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The French island of Martinique south of the Leewards was by far the hardest hit by the storm. Heavy rain since Tuesday spawned landslides and serious flooding, blocking many roads and forcing 1,500 people from their homes. Authorities said six people were killed, including two young sisters swept from a bridge, and two fishermen were reported missing.
Wind and flood damage also occurred on Barbados, Dominica and St. Lucia, but no injuries were reported from those islands.
St. Lucia’s Banana Growers Association said about 15 percent of this year’s crop was destroyed. Damage was estimated at near $1 million.