Tropical Storm Dorian strengthens as Puerto Rico declares state of emergency
Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Dorian, which is growing as it moves across the Caribbean, could be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when it nears the island still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Dorian, the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, has gathered strength since forming as a tropical depression Saturday.
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Now, 30 miles southeast of Saint Lucia with 50 mph winds, the tropical storm is traveling northwest at 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Dorian is not yet a hurricane but has placed Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenada under a tropical storm warning. Puerto Rico and the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic are under a hurricane watch, as forecasters warn the storm might grow.
The storm's effects are expected to be felt in Puerto Rico by Wednesday afternoon and travel up to Hispaniola later that night. Forecasters say Dorian will then head toward the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday and reach Southeastern Florida by early Sunday.
If the storm goes across the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the mountains might weaken it, but if it stays over the ocean, weather officials believe the storm could gain strength as it travels toward Florida.
Puerto Rico will see the worst conditions Wednesday, where the western and southern parts of the islands are expected to experience high winds and heavy precipitation. On Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said the island should expect a maximum of six inches of rain.
Puerto Rican officials said in a press conference Monday they declared a state of emergency in part to free up resources, like the Puerto Rico National Guard, and to coordinate with Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Many on the island are still reeling from Maria in 2017, a Category 5 hurricane and the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, that killed almost 3,000 people. Officials on the island said that residents still living with blue tarps from FEMA and without proper shelter will be prioritized as they prepare for the storm.
Dorian also comes amid Puerto Rico’s political crisis: former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned earlier this month after hundreds of thousands of residents protested the island’s corruption and the hundreds of leaked offensive chats between the governor and his top advisers, some of which trivialized Maria’s death toll.