Dorian expected to near hurricane strength as it heads for Puerto Rico

Dorian expected to near hurricane strength as it heads for Puerto Rico
As of Monday, August 26, 2019, tropical Storm Dorian is strengthening as approaches the Lesser Antilles.

Another menacing storm is on track to slam the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, an island still grappling with the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Tropical Storm Dorian has intensified in the Atlantic Ocean, whipping 60 mph winds Monday as it churned west toward several Caribbean islands.

A tropical storm watch for Puerto Rico was issued later in the day. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.

“Hurricane watches and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for parts of the Leeward and Windward Islands, where Dorian is expected move through on Tuesday morning,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

Dorian is forecast to intensify into a hurricane after it passes the Windward Islands and moves into the Caribbean Sea, according to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.

“The storm is still forecast to be a hurricane as it approaches Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Thursday,” Hennen said. It’s expected to be a Category 1 hurricane at that point.

By the end of the week, what’s left of Dorian is expected to move toward the Bahamas and possibly southeastern parts of the mainland US.

“But it is still way too early to forecast impacts,” Hennen said.

A tight but powerful storm

Dorian is expected to hurl winds topping 74 mph in parts of the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands later Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” are possible in parts of the Lesser Antilles, a string of islands stretching from the Virgin Islands to Grenada.

Dorian is also expected to dump up to 10 inches of rain over the Windward Islands and up to 8 inches in Barbados and Dominica, through Tuesday, the hurricane center said.

Dorian is considered a very compact storm, with tropical-storm-force winds (those ranging from 39 mph to 73 mph) extending only 45 miles from the center.

But don’t let that fool you.

The storm will intensify when it moves past the Lesser Antilles and into the Caribbean Sea on Tuesday, CNN Meteorologist Karen Maginnis said.

By the time Dorian’s done, parts of Barbados and the Windward Islands could be deluged with 6 inches of rain, the hurricane center said.

Renewed anxiety in Puerto Rico

Tropical-storm-force winds and rain are expected to lash the southwestern part of Puerto Rico, with the Dominican Republic expected to get hit harder.

Puerto Ricans are scrambling to stock up on supplies before Dorian approaches Wednesday evening.

Many are still reliving nightmares from Hurricane Maria, which killed thousands of people in 2017 and left almost the entire US territory without power for weeks.

“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.

When she visited a Sam’s Club on Sunday, many shoppers were stocking their carts full of bottled water.

In Barbados, which could get pounded with 8 inches of rain, Caroline Weber said “people are going crazy.”

“The supermarkets are packed. The roads are packed,” said Weber, who just moved from London to Barbados a week ago.

“I have supplies of water and a lot of food. … I just have to wait and see what’s happening,” she said. “Freaking out now is not going to help. I’m just going home, charging my computer and phone in case the power goes.”

Rescue teams in Florida prep for operations in Caribbean and Puerto Rico

A team of over 200 people from nearly 30 different fire departments in South Florida were preparing for deployment to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico Monday, according to CNN affiliate WPLG-TV.

Scott Dean, Miami Fire Rescue assistant chief, told WPLG the Federal Emergency Management Agency activated two federal task forces based in Miami. Task Force 1 headed to Puerto Rico Monday and Task Force 2 headed to Saint Croix. Both teams are made up of elite-level first responders, according to CNN affiliate WSVN.

“We want to make sure that locals there get the most immediate assistance possible so that if there’s any life-threatening situations, they can be treated and cared for accordingly,” Dean told WSVN.

The fire chief added that every storm is different, so the teams try to be prepared for anything.

“It’s the unknown. You won’t know until it’s already come through and see what the aftermath is,” he said.

We’re in the peak of hurricane season

Dorian is the fourth named storm of this hurricane season. Generally, the season reaches a peak in the eight weeks surrounding September 10.

Two-thirds of all the storms produced in a typical season occur during this period.

That’s because conditions in the tropics become ideal for storm development. By the end of August, water has typically warmed to the mid-80s in many parts of the region.

CNN’s Paul P. Murphy, Judson Jones, Taylor Ward, Amanda Jackson and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.