While residents of St. Croix stood in lines at grocery stores and gas stations preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Jose, the storm took a turn for the better.
The 11 a.m. advisory had the center of Hurricane Jose, newly upgraded to a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of about 100 mph, located near latitude 17.1 north and longitude 61.5 west, very close to Antigua, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. St. Croix is located at 17.8 north and 64.5 west.
The storm coordinates placed Jose approximately 215 miles east-southeast of St. Croix and 250 miles east-southeast of St. Thomas and moving toward the northwest at nearly 12 mph. That direction is expected to continue for the next 24 hours.
The maximum sustained winds of 100 mph are mainly over a small area near the storm center. According to the NHC, satellite imagery and hurricane hunter data indicate that Jose strengthened overnight. Some further strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours.
Early Wednesday, Gene Walker, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said Jose had changed direction overnight, turning to the north.
"There seems to be a drastic turn" away from the territory, Walker said, although a hurricane warning still is in effect. "What a difference six hours makes."
The storm is now predicted to pass about 100 miles northeast of St. Croix and about 50 miles northeast of St. Thomas.
Walker said, however, that the territory will be engulfed in tropical storm-force winds.
"We’re saying we cannot be absolutely certain in terms of path," he said. "It could possibly go back to where it was last night."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull declared a state of emergency in the territory on Tuesday, a standard procedure to activate a quick response, if needed, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and instituted a 3 p.m. Wednesday curfew. However, shortly after 10 a.m. today, Turnbull announced that the curfew would not begin until 6 p.m.
Jose, the 10th named storm of the 1999 hurricane season, is expected come the nearest to St. Croix with tropical-force winds at approximately 11 p.m. tonight, and St. Thomas-St. John around 2 a.m. Thursday.
Hurricane-force winds continue to extend outward up to 35 miles from the center of Jose while tropical storm force-winds extended outward up to 115 miles.
In preparation for Jose, residents filled their cars and extra containers with gasoline to run generators in the aftermath of the storm. Stores had long lines of people stocking up on supplies. Plaza Extra Supermarket ran out of bottled water by Tuesday evening.
All school classes were canceled for Wednesday and Thursday, and all non-essential government offices were closed.
Last September, Hurricane Georges swept through the eastern Caribbean islands causing billions of dollars of damage.


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