SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Bertha swirled over the eastern Dominican Republic late Saturday after whipping Puerto Rico with heavy rains and strong winds that knocked out power in parts of the region.
The storm's maximum sustained winds dropped slightly to 45 mph (75 kph), but slow strengthening was expected by Monday. Bertha was centered about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-northeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and was moving west-northwest at 22 mph (35 kph) Saturday evening.
The director of the Dominican Republic's Emergency Operations Center, Juan Manuel Mendez, said that rain was falling on parts of the country but there were no reports of damage so far.
Officials were asking hotels and resorts in Punta Cana to cancel any planned water sports or activities and have prohibited tourist and fishing boats from taking to the water on the country's east coast.
"Our obligation is to make sure that no person, national or foreign, experience problems" because of the storm, said Mendez.
Earlier Saturday, the storm passed just southwest of Puerto Rico, dropping between 3 to 5 inches (8-13 centimeters) of rain, with isolated amounts of up to 8 inches (20 centimeters).
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla warned of flooding, landslides and swollen rivers, which he urged people not to try and cross.
"It's something that sounds obvious but it happens so often," he said. "It's not the time to take risks."
Authorities reported several downed trees in Puerto Rico's eastern region and two downed electrical posts. Nearly 39,000 households were without power and more than 3,000 without water. The lights also had gone out at the island's emergency management agency during a press conference Saturday morning.
Officials said most of the power outages occurred in the island's central mountainous region following more than 1,200 lightning strikes that occurred in the area during afternoon hours alone.
The heaviest rains fell in the island's southern and eastern regions, with authorities warning people to stay indoors.
Jose Colon Rivera, 50, who lives in a rural area near the southern town of Cayey, said in a phone interview that he could hear the wind whistling loudly through his zinc roof.
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