A weakened Erika took aim at Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Thursday after wobbling through the eastern Caribbean, churning up rough surf and dumping rain but leaving little noticeable damage.
Once a tropical storm, Erika was downgraded Thursday to a tropical depression.
But the slow-moving system still poses a threat to Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where impoverished riverside communities are extremely vulnerable to flooding. The two countries were advised to monitor the storm's progress.
A tropical-storm warning was issued earlier for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and marinas and waterfront businesses were advised to pick up debris that high winds could turn into dangerous projectiles.
In Puerto Rico, schools, courts and government offices closed early Thursday. Some islanders stocked up on supplies as the approaching system whipped up swells. Officials monitored weather forecasts, reviewed disaster-management plans, and readied 433 shelters across the island.
With up to 5 inches of rain expected in Puerto Rico, the National Weather Service in San Juan also issued a flash-flood watch for the U.S. territory, including its outlying islands of Culebra and Vieques, and for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands urged residents to pay close attention to storm advisories and scrutinized emergency plans. The leader of the U.S. territory called for prayer.
"Let us come together as a community and offer a prayer for our protection and safe deliverance," U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John deJongh said in a statement.
A tropical-storm warning remained in effect for Antigua and Barbuda; Montserrat; St. Kitts and Nevis; Anguilla; and islands of the Netherlands Antilles and French Caribbean territories. Up to 4 inches of rain was expected over much of the Lesser Antilles during the next couple of days.
Erika was the fifth named storm of Atlantic season.