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Tropical Storm Bertha soaks Caribbean

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(CNN) — A big Bertha could have really clubbed Puerto Rico, but fortunately for the denizens of that U.S. territory, Tropical Storm Bertha never gained much clout.

The tropical storm dumped plenty of rain and forged through the Caribbean island with gale-force winds Saturday afternoon, but according to the National Hurricane Center, Bertha barely qualified as a tropical cyclone, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, as dry air and vertical shear tore the storm apart.

Despite the lack of an impressive resume, Bertha made things miserable for at least tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans.

Nearly 40,000 people, mostly in the mountainous center of Puerto Rico, lost electricity, and another 3,000 were left without fresh water, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said at a news conference. Padilla also said 220 “refugees,” from several different countries, including the United States, ended up in shelters in Arroyo, Cayey and Ponce.

The storm was heading over the eastern Dominican Republic, which was subject to a tropical storm warning, according the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. advisory.

The Miami-based center noted that Bertha was centered about 60 miles east-northeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and 200 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island.

As of 8 p.m. tropical storm warnings also remained in effect for the southeastern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Bertha could end up dumping 1 to 3 inches of rain “with isolated amounts up to 5 inches” throughout the Caribbean by the time it’s passed through.

The Hurricane Center suggests three possible scenarios for Bertha.

The official forecast is that “Bertha survives its current lack of structure, land interaction, and dry air entrainment long enough to reach a more favorable environment in about 36 hours. At that point, it would likely intensify until the onset of extratropical transition in 96-120 hours,” and become a hurricane far out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The second scenario calls for Bertha to degenerate over Hispaniola, though it could regenerate later.

And the third scenario would involve a low pressure system developing over the northwestern Bahamas absorbing Bertha in the next 48 hours or so.

The biggest threat to the United States would be rip currents up and down the East Coast as large waves come ashore.

CNN’s Joe Sutton and CNNE’s Dania Alexandrino contributed to this report

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