Tropical Storm Rafael is fast reaching hurricane strength, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
A projection map generated by the National Hurricane Center showed the storm raging in the central Atlantic early on Monday, while an estimated path suggests Tropical Storm Rafael will hit Bermuda later this week.
The hurricane center noted that the storm’s sustained winds had increased to 70 mph by late Sunday as it hovered around 260 miles (420 km) north-northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Forecasters said Rafael was moving north-northwest at a speed of 10 mph. A statement released by the hurricane center said:
“Some additional strengthening is forecast … and Rafael could become a hurricane on Monday.”
Authorities in Bermuda have already issued a tropical storm watch, warning residents that the storm could reach the islands as early as Tuesday.
Yet before Tropical Storm Rafael reaches Bermuda, the hurricane center predicts it will wreak havoc over the northern Leeward Islands where anything between 4 to 8 inches of rain are expected. Some parts of the region are even expected to see as much as 12 inches of rainfall in 24 hours. Rainfall levels of 1 to 3 inches are anticipated in the Virgin Islands, Culebra, and Vieques.
Forecasters estimate the east Bahamas should avoid the very worst of the storm, but there will be “life-threatening” surf conditions and rip currents on the eastward-facing beaches of the Bahamas. The hurricane center’s statement revealed:
“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in areas of mountainous terrain.”