By Caribbean News Now contributor
MIAMI, USA — Hurricane warnings were likely to be issued on Tuesday night as Tropical Storm Isaac approached the Lesser Antilles. A hurricane watch is currently in effect for Dominica, Guadeloupe and Martinique. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Antigua, Montserrat and St Kitts and Nevis. Interests elsewhere in the Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of Isaac.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Tuesday the centre of Tropical Storm Isaac was located about 670 miles (1,075 km) east of the Lesser Antilles, moving toward the west near 17 mph (28 km/h). This general motion is expected to continue for the next few days.
On the forecast track, Isaac is anticipated to move near or over the central Lesser Antilles on Thursday, move into the eastern Caribbean Sea on Thursday night, and move into the central Caribbean Sea by the weekend.
Maximum sustained winds remain near 70 mph (110 km/h) with higher gusts. Isaac is expected to be near hurricane strength when it moves through the central Lesser Antilles, with some weakening forecast afterward on Friday and Saturday.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles (165 km) from the centre.
Isaac is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches with isolated amounts near 10 inches across Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe, with 1 to 2 inches anticipated across the remaining Windward and Leeward Islands.
A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels is possible near and to the north of where the center moves through the Lesser Antilles. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by Thursday morning, with tropical storm conditions possible overnight Wednesday in both the hurricane and tropical storm watch areas.
Swells generated by Isaac will begin to affect portions of the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday afternoon. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
The British Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay has arrived in Barbados for a brief one day refuelling visit, before departing to assist Eastern Caribbean islands as they brace for the arrival of Hurricane Isaac.
“We have come to Barbados to refuel and top up our stores, before we position ourselves to render assistance wherever it might be needed,” the commanding officer of RFA Mounts Bay, Captain Peter Selby said.
RFA Mounts Bay’s primary task is to provide enhanced security and support to the UK Overseas Territories and citizens through disaster relief, working with regional partners to intercept narcotic operations, providing humanitarian assistance and other peacetime operations.
However, during the Atlantic Hurricane season, the ship and crew take on an enhanced role remaining on standby to react to emerging crises around the Caribbean.
The massive Bay class ship has a load displacement of 16,160 tonnes and is fully equipped with tractors, excavators, trucks, quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles, critical to facilitating a rapid response when disasters occur.
“Following last year’s disastrous hurricane season, to have Mounts Bay on standby is hugely reassuring. Her presence confirms the UK’s ongoing commitment to the region,” British High Commissioner Janet Douglas said.
The Department for International Development (DFID) in the Caribbean has also pre-positioned additional humanitarian relief supplies in the region on RFA Mounts Bay, doubling the amount of this year’s stores to 1,048 collapsible jerry cans, 999 hygiene kits, 976 shelter kits, as well as the sub-regional hub in Antigua housing 800 shelter kits and 1620 buckets to provide life-saving emergency assistance as required.
Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard Captain of the Port San Juan set port condition Whiskey effective 8 pm on Monday for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands due to the possibility of sustained tropical storm force winds greater than 39 mph from Isaac that may arrive within 72 hours.
The maritime community was strongly cautioned to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions as Isaac approaches and makes its way into the Caribbean as a possible hurricane or tropical storm.
During port condition Whiskey, port facilities are currently open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue while Whiskey remains in effect.
Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbour. Maritime and port facilities are reminded to review and update their heavy weather response plans and make any additional preparations needed to adequately prepare in case of a potential impact to the area.
Mariners are advised there are no safe havens in these facilities, and ports are safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum. All ocean-going commercial vessels 500 gross tons and above should make plans for departing the port.
At this time, the Coast Guard Captain anticipates setting port condition X-Ray at 8 pm on Tuesday for the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. During port condition X-Ray, sustained winds greater that 39 mph are possible within 48 hours.