Tropical Storm Dorian is expected to make landfall in Puerto Rico Wednesday, bringing dangerous rains to the island still reeling from 2017's Hurricane Maria.
Dorian is currently in the Caribbean Sea, just west of Guadeloupe and Montserrat and is expected to reach Puerto Rico at near hurricane strength in the midday or afternoon, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said. But as it keeps moving, Dorian could bring a hurricane to Florida for Labor Day weekend.
The rainfall Dorian is expected to bring may cause life-threatening flash floods, the National Hurricane Center said. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said the storm could easily disrupt the already fragile infrastructure on the island where 2,975 people died from Hurricane Maria just two years ago.
Puerto Rico bracing for impact
"There's already so much damage on the ground from (Maria) that this isn't going to take a lot to make a significant amount of damage, especially flooding," Myers said.
Early Wednesday, the storm was about 240 miles east southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Ponce Mayor Maria "Mayita" Melendez told CNN there are still people with tarps over their homes in the city, which she estimates was hit with $1 billion in damages from Maria.
One resident, Lucy Beascochea, said the tin roof over her home still has holes in it, meaning every time it rains, water leaks in. She told CNN she is nervous about the approaching storm.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on Monday declared a state of emergency for the island and urged people to prepare for the storm.
"For citizens who do not yet have safe roofs, we will have shelters ready," Vázquez said on Twitter.
Schools across Puerto Rico are closed Wednesday.
About 360 shelters are available across the island for a capacity of 48,500 people, the government's official Twitter account said Monday. And about 70 hospitals were prepared to handle emergencies, officials said.
"Thankfully, I've been preparing since May," said Krystle Rivera, whose family has been stocking up on water, canned food and gas in anticipation of the hurricane season.
Heavy rains and strong winds
Though not yet a hurricane, Tropical Storm Dorian is expected to bring severe conditions to the Caribbean.
Two-thirds of Puerto Rico is likely to receive tropical storm force winds, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. As of the early hours of Wednesday, Dorian had sustained winds of 60 mph.
From Wednesday to Thursday, Puerto Rico could get 4 to 8 inches of rain, and the US Virgin Islands, Haiti and Dominican Republic could receive up to 4 inches, according to the hurricane center.
Puerto Rico and eastern parts of the Dominican Republic are under a tropical storm warning, and Puerto Rico is under a hurricane watch, the hurricane center said Tuesday evening.
A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours, and a hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.
After passing Puerto Rico, Dorian is forecast to move near or over eastern Hispaniola on Thursday and move north, the hurricane center said.
By the end of the week, what's left of Dorian is expected to move toward the Bahamas and possibly into the southeastern parts of the United States.
Florida expecting a hurricane
By Friday evening, the storm is forecast to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane as it tracks east of Turks and Caicos. It will then strengthen to a Category 2 by Sunday morning before making landfall on the east coast of Florida or Georgia.
That means Florida may see a hurricane over Labor Day weekend.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents to start preparing for Dorian to come their way.
"Based on the current track of Tropical Storm Dorian, all residents on the East Coast should prepare for impacts, including strong winds, heavy rain and flooding. Make sure to have your supplies ready and follow @FLSERT [Florida Division of Emergency Management] and local media for the latest updates on the forecast," DeSantis said.
But that may not mean it's time to cancel travel plans: "It is still way too early to forecast impacts," CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.