Hurricane Gonzalo gains strength, nears British Virgin Islands

Hurricane Gonzalo picked up power as it churned through the northern Caribbean late on Monday headed for the British Virgin Islands, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Reuters| Last Updated: Oct 14, 2014, 14:05 PM IST

Puerto Rico: Hurricane Gonzalo picked up power as it churned through the northern Caribbean late on Monday headed for the British Virgin Islands, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Gonzalo was expected to pass northeast of the Virgin Islands overnight and was packing top sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 km per hour), the center said.

The storm was about 105 miles (170 km) east of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a hurricane warning was in effect for the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin and Anguilla. Hurricane watches were in place for St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the center said.

Gonzalo was forecast to gain strength and could become a major hurricane by Wednesday with sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph).

Most forecasts showed Gonzalo posing no threat to the mainland United States and moving north into the Atlantic after passing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In Antigua and Barbuda, several fishing vessels were destroyed, roofs blown off and power lines downed, the government said in a statement.

Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne ordered schools closed for a national cleanup effort on Tuesday to get the nation "fully back in business" by Wednesday.

A hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands was downgraded to a tropical storm warning. Puerto Rican consumers stocked up on water, batteries and other emergency supplies, and emergency personnel were put on alert.

Gonzalo is the sixth hurricane of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. In August, forecasters downgraded their outlook for the season, predicting below-normal activity with seven to 12 named storms and no more than two reaching major hurricane status.

A major hurricane is considered to be Category 3 or above with winds hitting at least 111 mph (178 kph).