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Hurricane Erika Batters Beaches

MONDAY, SEPT. 8, 1997

Hurricane Erika battered beaches and coral reefs with 105-mph winds as it skirted the northeast Caribbean, tempting some surfers to ignore warnings and frolic in Puerto Rico.

Officials said dangerous swells would continue to pummel the north-facing coastlines of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, when Erika was expected to grow stronger even as it turned slowly away from land.

Erika strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane Sunday and whipped up 15-foot swells that flooded coastal roads in northeast Puerto Rico.

The U.S. National Weather Service warned that an increase in swells could force the evacuation of several coastal areas in and around San Juan.

Nevertheless, authorities canceled a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) Monday, when Erika was centered about 245 miles northeast of San Juan. The storm was moving north-northwest at near 6 mph and was expected to head toward the North Atlantic during the next 24 hours.

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