Local July 9, 2013 | 7:02 am

First responders prep as Chantal races toward Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo.- The National Meteorology Office (Onamet) on Monday said heavy downpours are expected over the country as of noon Wednesday, when Tropical Storm Chantal will force many residents into shelters and the authorities to shutter schools.

It said the storm’s large cloud field has prompted flash flooding alerts and the activation of first response agencies.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. the storm was centered around 75 miles east of Barbados around 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds near 50 mph, moving west-northwest at 26 mph.

Chantal was expected to move over the small islands on the eastern rim of the Caribbean early Tuesday and be near the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, when it could have hurricane strength before it reaches Hispaniola.

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