Wary Florida Readies For Hurricane Dorian

Associated Press
August 28, 2019 - 4:30 pm

(NOAA via AP)

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(AP) - People in Florida are starting to get ready for a possible Labor Day strike from Hurricane Dorian, which forecasters say could grow into a Category 3 storm.

Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Wednesday that: "All Floridians on the East Coast should have 7 days of supplies, prepare their homes & follow the track closely."

County governments along Florida's east-central coast have begun distributing sandbags, while many residents are rushing to warehouse retailers to load up on water, canned food and emergency supplies.

The prospect of Dorian already is dinging the region's tourism. The head of Volusa County's Lodging and Hospitality Association says hotel reservations there went from three-quarter capacity down to half through cancellations.

Disney plans to open its long-anticipated Star Wars Land on Thursday and that had been expected to drive attendance over the three-day weekend. There's no word yet on any possible closure.

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2:10 p.m.

Dorian has hit the U.S. Virgin Islands just as it reached hurricane force, and forecasters say it could grow to Category 3 status before a likely collision with the U.S. mainland as early as the weekend.

The British Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra were also in Dorian's path. Officials in the U.S. territory were worried the storm could bring landslides, widespread flooding and power outages in what could be the first major test of emergency preparedness since the 2017 devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Dorian prompted President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency Tuesday night and order federal assistance for local authorities.

At 2 p.m. EDT, Dorian was located over St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). It was moving northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

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1:50 p.m.

Forecasters say Dorian has become a hurricane as it nears the U.S. Virgin Islands and is expected to keep getting stronger.

The Hurricane Center says tropical storm conditions are expected Wednesday in Puerto Rico, with hurricane conditions possible. Puerto Rico could see flash floods, and heavy rains are expected in the Bahamas and Florida.

The risk of storm surge is increasing in the central and northwestern Bahamas and along Florida's eastern coast, but forecasters can't say yet when it might happen.

Shortly before 2 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center reported Hurricane Dorian was expected to move near or over the U.S. and British Virgin Islands during the afternoon. It's then expected to move over the open Atlantic, east of the southeastern Bahamas, on a course approaching the U.S. Southeast coast.

The Miami-based hurricane center reports Dorian has become a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph.

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1 p.m.

A National Hurricane Center meteorologist says the threat to the U.S. mainland from Tropical Storm Dorian has grown, with forecasts showing it could hit southeast coast as a Category 3 hurricane.

Dennis Feltgen says Dorian may also grow in size and could land anywhere from South Florida to South Carolina on Sunday or Monday.

The latest, still-uncertain extended forecast shows the storm's sustained winds could grow to about 115 mph (185 kph) before landfall.

Feltgen says that "with Dorian now getting better organized and the center shifting to the north and the east, now we have a stronger system coming out of the eastern Caribbean Sea and entering the southeast Atlantic." He says that gives it "more time and more distance to strengthen in the warm waters."

Feltgen said Wednesday that the storm was smaller and more difficult to forecast earlier in the week, but that may change after it passes Puerto Rico.

In his words, "This will be a large storm approaching the Southeast."

— Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami

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12:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is kicking up a renewed feud with officials in Puerto Rico who are racing to prepare for Tropical Storm Dorian, their first big emergency challenge since Hurricane Maria hit in 2017 and caused thousands of deaths.

Trump has declared a state of emergency for the island and assured that federal disaster officials are ready to respond. But he added a jab at local officials who have called the federal response to Maria slow and inadequate, and he singled out what he called "the incompetent mayor of San Juan."

In a second tweet, he declared that "Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt" and asserted that aid for Puerto Rico is "more than anyplace else has ever gotten" — an assertion repeatedly knocked down by fact-checkers.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted back, saying that Trump needs to "calm down get out of the way and make way for those of us who are actually doing the work on the ground."

She said "THIS IS NOT ABOUT HIM; THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS; THIS IS ABOUT SAVING LIVES."

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11:20 a.m.

Tropical Storm Dorian is threatening to hit Puerto Rico at near-hurricane force, and forecasters say it could strengthen further as it approaches the U.S. mainland.

The storm is expected to pass over or near Puerto Rico, with landslides, widespread flooding and power outages possible. It's expected to be the first major test of emergency preparedness since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.

President Donald Trump declared an emergency Tuesday night and ordered federal assistance for local authorities.

Forecasters say "practically the entire island will be under sustained tropical storm force winds."

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8 a.m.

Tropical Storm Dorian is nearing the Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as it continues on a path that could take it to the southeastern United States.

The storm's maximum sustained winds Wednesday morning were near 60 mph (96 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Dorian is expected to be near hurricane strength when it approaches Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The storm is centered about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix and moving northwest near 13 mph (20 kph).

Tropical Storm Erin, meanwhile, is posing no threat to land as it churns off the U.S. eastern seaboard. Forecasters expect it to weaken by Thursday.

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6:15 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says nearly all the intensity models show Tropical Storm Dorian becoming a hurricane after hitting Puerto Rico and then getting stronger while threatening the Bahamas and the southeastern United States.

Dorian's exact path remains very difficult to predict, but forecasters say nearly all their models suggest residents of Florida should keep close watch as the storm approaches the U.S. coast this weekend.

Tropical Storm Erin, meanwhile, is posing no threat to land as it churns off the U.S. eastern seaboard. Forecasters expect it to weaken by Thursday.

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3:30 a.m.

Tropical Storm Dorian has strengthened slightly as it makes it way toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Dorian was located about 240 miles east southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, early Wednesday. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (96 kph) while moving northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

The storm is expected to dump 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain on Puerto Rico with isolated amounts of 8 inches (20 centimeters).

The change in the storm's course concerned many across the U.S. territory, where some 30,000 homes still have blue tarps as roofs nearly two years after Hurricane Maria. The island's 3.2 million inhabitants still depend on a shaky power grid that has remained prone to outages since it was destroyed by the Category 4 storm.

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12:00 a.m.

Tropical Storm Erin has formed well off the U.S. East Coast as Tropical Storm Dorian takes aim at Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Florida.

The National Hurricane Service says the storm is forecast to move northward and north eastward over the open Atlantic with no threat to land.

Erin is drifting toward the west near 2 mph (3 kph). The storm is expected to begin moving northward Tuesday night and northeastward Wednesday with an increase in forward speed. Erin 690 miles (1110 kilometers) west of Bermuda and 300 miles (482 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

Dorian is expected to gain strength before reaching Puerto Rico on Wednesday where a hurricane watch is in effect before heading toward the Bahamas on Thursday and Florida over the weekend.

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This story has been corrected to change storm's location from nearing Puerto Rico to its distances from Bermuda and North Carolina.

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