Country still feeling the effects of first hurricane of season

Irene, now over the Bahamas, is heading north northwest while two more systems are en route.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the season is in the Bahamas, but it still is having an effect on Costa Rica. Meanwhile another threatening system is off the coast of Africa headed this way.

The national emergency commission issued a low-level alert for the Pacific coast and the Central Valley Wednesday, and the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said the effects of the hurricane would continue through today.

The storm, Irene, was listed as a category three system by the U.S. Nacional Hurricane Center Wednesday night. The center said the storm is expected to become a category four later today. This is on the five-point Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

Some of the Pacific coast got a drenching Wednesday afternoon. Liberia got 75 millimeters (2.95 inches), mostly between 2 and 4 p.m., and Santa Rosa reported 39.6 millimeters (1.56 inches), according to the automatic weather stations there. Elsewhere just a few millimeters fell, despite forecasts of heavier rain.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias reported that some rivers were rising.

In a 7 p.m. report the weather institute said that heavy rains also fell on the Caribbean mountains. It recommended that persons living near rivers should be vigilant and said that some landslides are possible in the Central Valley, mainly in places where slides have taken place previously.

At 9 p.m. Costa Rican time the hurricane center said Irene was moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph) and that turns to the north northwest and then to the north are expected
today. The core of the hurricane was moving across the central Bahamas and would reach the northwestern Bahamas later today.

Maximum sustained winds remain at 120 mph (195 kph) with higher gusts, the center said. Some strengthening is expected today, it added.

The center’s graphics show that the storm will not make landfall in Florida, Georgia or South Carolina.

There are two more systems in the Atlantic headed west. One is in the mid-Atlantic with just a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next two days.

A more ominous system is just off the coast of Africa. This system has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next two days, the center said, estimating movement as northwest at 10 to 15 mph.

The hurricane center’s director, Bill Read, says tropical storm force winds from Irene could approach the U.S. state of North Carolina as soon as early Saturday morning, according to A.M. Costa Rica wire services.

Evacuations were already under way in parts of the state.

Read said that Irene could become a big threat Sunday to the northeast United States, including New York’s Long Island.

Irene is the first hurricane to seriously threaten the United States in three years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that emergency personnel are preparing all along the coast.

The storm likely will complicate airline flights from the northeast and probably shut down major airports when it makes landfall this weekend.

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