Karen regains tropical storm strength as it churns toward Puerto Rico

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Tropical storm Karen was gaining strength and threatening to come ashore in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, bringing severe winds and flooding rains, forecasters said.

It regained its classification as a tropical storm, after briefly being downgraded to a tropical depression on Monday.

Packing winds of 40 mph (65 kph), Karen is expected to dump 2-4 inches of rain on the US island territory with some areas getting upwards of 8 inches (20.3 cm), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), said in an advisory.

“There are flash flood watches and warnings across Puerto Rico,” said Marc Chenard, a forecaster with the National Weather Service (NWS).

“Eastern and southern Puerto Rico will be the hardest hit areas, especially the hills and mountainous areas. There's a risk of serious mudslides and floods.”

Tropical storm-force wind gusts are expected to hit the island as Karen moves near or over land by Tuesday afternoon, before heading out towards western Atlantic overnight, the NHC said.

Tropical storm warnings remained in effect for Puerto Rico, as well as the adjacent US and British Virgin Islands for the next 24 hours.

Karen, the 11th named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, formed on Sunday afternoon east of the Lesser Antilles.

Puerto Rico, beset with financial woes and political turmoil, was spared a potential new disaster last month when Hurricane Dorian skirted past it before laying waste to the northern Bahamas.

Two years ago, Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Irma when it took a direct hit from Hurricane Maria. Some 3,000 people perished in that storm, the deadliest in the island’s recorded history.

To the north of Karen, a separate Atlantic tropical storm named Jerry was on track to skirt by Bermuda on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Jerry was packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) but was also expected to gradually weaken.

Yet a third tropical storm, Lorenzo, formed on Monday in the far eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands, off Africa. Lorenzo was forecast to reach hurricane strength by Tuesday night as it churned across the ocean but posed no immediate threat to land, the NHC said.

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