Tropical Storm Gabrielle weakens to depression over Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Gabrielle weakened to a tropical depression on Thursday as it moved over Puerto Rico toward the Dominican Republic.
The storm disintegrated into a mass of thunderstorms and its sustained winds fell to 35 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) advisory.
The storm was located about 80 miles south-southeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Forecasters said it was not expected to regain strength and will likely degenerate into a remnant of low pressure.
The storm system was expected to dump between 2 to 4 inches of rain across Puerto Rico and possibly up to 8 inches in the central, mountainous region of the island, the hurricane center said.
"These rains could cause dangerous flash floods and mud slides," the center warned.
Before Gabrielle's approach, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla ordered schools and most government offices closed.
Gabrielle was the seventh named storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which has yet to record a hurricane. Forecasters have predicted an above average season, which runs from June to November and is now entering its most active period.
The rainfall in Puerto Rico comes amid one of the wettest years on record on the U.S. territory. Rainfall in the capital, San Juan, is nearly two feet above average for the year, meteorologist Jeff Masters said in his Weather Underground blog.
Weather watchers were also following a storm system in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. The mass of low pressure and thunderstorms off the coast of Mexico had a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone, the hurricane center said.
(Additional reporting by a Reuters correspondent in San Juan and Jane Sutton; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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