SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Dorian dumped rain on the Windward Islands of the eastern Caribbean on Tuesday, gathering power on a path to brush past Puerto Rico’s southwest coast and hit the eastern Dominican Republic on Wednesday at near hurricane strength.
A still-uncertain long-term track showed the storm near Florida over the weekend.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning for Puerto Rico and for the Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Samaná and a tropical storm warning for Martinique.
The center said the storm had maximum sustained winds near 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and was forecast to strengthen during the next 48 hours before passing near or south of the U.S. territory.
The storm was centered about 415 miles (665 kilometers) southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and was moving west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).
The storm knocked out power overnight in Barbados, where crews began clearing downed trees and repairing the electrical grid early Tuesday. Jackie Marshall-Clarke, a spokeswoman for Barbados Light & Power, said on state-owned TV that many communities in the island’s northern region were without electricity.
Government officials said that by Tuesday morning, public transportation would resume and businesses would reopen.
The storm was expected to dump between 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain in the Windward islands, with isolated amounts of 10 inches (25 centimeters).
Tropical storm watches were in force for Dominica, Saba, St. Eustatius and parts of the Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Punta Palenque and from Samaná to Puerto Plata.
In Puerto Rico, some grocery stores ran out of bottled water as people rushed to buy supplies including generators and filled their cars with gasoline.
Many worried about power outages and heavy rains on an island still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit in September 2017. Some 30,000 homes still have blue tarps as roofs and the electrical grid remains fragile and prone to outages even during brief rain showers.
“The biggest problem will be the rain,” said Roberto García, a forecaster with the National Meteorological Service in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed an executive order Monday declaring a state of emergency and provided a list of all the new equipment that public agencies have bought since Hurricane Maria.
“I want everyone to feel calm,” she said. “Agency directors have prepared for the last two years. The experience of Maria has been a great lesson for everyone.”
She said public schools would close Tuesday afternoon and that at least one cruise ship canceled its trip to Puerto Rico. She said those without a proper roof can stay in one of the 360 shelters around the island.
Dorian was expected to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night or Friday.
Meanwhile, a new tropical depression formed Monday between the U.S. eastern coast and Bermuda. It was located about 370 miles (600 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and was moving north at 2 mph (4 kph) Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph). It was expected to become a tropical storm by Tuesday night or Wednesday and continue blowing off the U.S. East Coast this week on a path to Canada’s North Atlantic provinces.