Election officials, forecasters keeping eye on storm

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ST. THOMAS - V.I. Election System officials do not expect a storm to be the most pressing issue during Saturday's primary election, but they are prepared for one if need be, according to V.I. Elections System Supervisor Caroline Fawkes.

The National Hurricane Center reported Wednesday afternoon that a cluster of showers and thunderstorms about 900 miles east of the southern Windward Islands have a 50 percent chance of forming into a tropical depression within the next two days. The chances are the same in a five-day forecast for the low-pressure system.

While the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency has a readiness meeting scheduled for today with numerous government agencies - including the V.I. Elections System - the National Weather Service is not forecasting much of an impact from the storm system.

"Mostly it's going to be rain. In between this rain, we could get wind," said Ernesto Morales, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Puerto Rico.

The rain is expected to begin Saturday afternoon and continue through the following day, Morales said.

The shower and thunderstorms have been losing steam since Tuesday, but the National Weather Service still issued a weather watch statement to followers in the Lesser Antilles, which includes the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The islands should "monitor the progress of this system as it moves west-northwestward near 15 mph," according to the National Weather Service website.

"It's going to be near all of the islands," Morales said, noting that St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John likely will be affected equally.

It is too soon to tell how much rain the territory will get, he said.

Assuming that the tropical wave will remain a wave and nothing more, as expected, elections officials are not concerned about the impact on voting numbers.

"Right now, they're all feeling bright," Fawkes said about the St. Thomas-St. John and the St. Croix district election boards.

If the low-pressure system was to develop into a severe storm or hurricane before Saturday, Fawkes said she would meet with both district boards and reschedule the election date. That is precisely what happened in 1996 when Hurricane Bertha, a category 1 hurricane, swept through the territory.

At the time, the Elections System had scheduled the territory's elections on a Tuesday, though it was forced to move the election to a Saturday.

Otherwise, the elections are expected to take place, rain or shine. The schedule will stay the same, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., since it is required per the V.I. Code.

"People just go out in their galoshes and vote," Fawkes said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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