July 19, 2003 Tropical Depression Six formed late Saturday afternoon and could pose a threat to the Virgin Islands if it escalates into category one Hurricane Erika.
However, it is too soon to know exactly how close the storm will come, Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, said Saturday night.
Gregoria said it currently appears that the storm will pass about 150 miles south of St. Croix and about 200 miles south of St. Thomas and St. John on Wednesday morning.
"But that's three or four days out and there can be a large track," he said.
As Virgin Islands residents know from experience, storms can pick up speed and intensify or do the opposite as they head across the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Gregoria urged residents to monitor the storm, to be prepared to put up shutters and to make other hurricane preparations if the need arises.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, Tropical Depression Six was centered at 12.4 north and 44.2 west. It was moving west at 17 mph with winds of 35 mph. The barometric pressure stood at 1009 millibars.
Gregoria said that the storm is slowly intensifying and that conditions are favorable for further development. It should become a tropical storm within the next 24 hours.
He said forecasters expect it to be a category one hurricane with winds of 74 to 95 mph by the time it enters the Caribbean Sea. Currently, forecasters think it will cross over Martinique.
Storms are categorized as tropical depressions if they have circulating winds less than 38 mph. Tropical storm winds stand at 39 to 73 mph.
Winds in category two hurricanes are 96 to 110 mph. Those in a category three are 111 to 130 mph; in a category four, 131 to 155 mph; and in a category five, more than 156 mph.
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