Emily passes to south, has little impact on V.I.


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ST. CROIX - The weather trailing in Tropical Storm Emily's wake may still bring a few gusty winds and passing rain bands to the territory today, but the storm itself went by to the south on Tuesday afternoon, bringing some blustery winds and only occasional rain.

Brian Seeley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan, said Tuesday evening that the tropical storm watch the territory has been under since Monday night likely will be lifted by this morning.

He anticipated some passing rain bands and occasional gusty winds overnight that may continue into the morning today.

"There's moisture sort of dumbbelling, swirling around the eastern part of the circulation," he said, adding that today is going to be "a tropical kind of day. It will be very humid."

"At least the first part of the day is going to be unsettled with some rain bands," he said.

Across the territory Tuesday, there was between a half-inch to 1 inch of rain, according to Seeley.

Tropical Storm Emily developed Monday night from an area of disturbed weather that the National Hurricane Center had been keeping an eye on for days, giving it a high likelihood of developing into a hurricane.

When the Hurricane Center determined it had become a tropical storm, Emily was centered about 50 miles west-southwest of Dominica.

Although some computer models for the disturbance late last week had predicted it could come close to the territory, Emily wound up tracking further south.

Tropical Storm Emily took its closest swipe at the territory in the early afternoon Tuesday, when its center was about 100 miles south of St. Croix, Seeley said.

On Monday afternoon, the approaching tropical wave prompted V.I. government officials to hold a news conference proclaiming that they were prepared.

The V.I. Human Services Department had planned to open shelters Tuesday afternoon, but when the storm passed to the south of the territory, the department announced it would not be opening the shelters after all.

The V.I. Public Works Department did not receive any calls about problems from the weather on Tuesday, said Commissioner Darryl Smalls.

The weather did, however, cancel cruise ship calls, and Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas will not be calling on St. Thomas today, cancelling as a precaution because of turbulent weather, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the V.I. Port Authority.

Tuesday's weather, as Emily was nearing, alternated between clouds and sunshine, with steady wind and occasional gusts.

King Airport on St. Thomas experienced several wind gusts on Tuesday that were 36 mph, Seeley said. Buck Island near St. Thomas - not the one off St. Croix - experienced a wind gust of 52 mph about 2:50 p.m., he said.

Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix clocked a wind gust of 41 mph at 1:47 p.m., he said.

"We feel pretty sure that with some of these rain bands, the gusts may have been higher in other parts of the island," he said.

Seas whipped up by the storm gradually will subside as Emily moves further away, with conditions likely to be significantly improved by Thursday, Seeley said. He anticipated that seas would remain rough and choppy today.

He noted that hurricane season is stepping into high gear, when tropical waves that can develop into hurricanes start rolling off the coast of Africa every three to five days.

"Certainly Emily has reminded us to check our preparedness and remember to have an emergency plan in place for our families," Seeley said. "You need to keep track of the systems from here on out and be ready. Now is the time to be ready."

At 11 p.m. Wednesday, the tropical storm's center was located about 125 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and moving west-northwest at about 14 mph.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 774-8772 ext. 455 or e-mail jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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