Tropical Storm Dorian Heads Toward Windward Islands
USThe Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Tropical Storm Dorian was dumping rain on Tuesday, Aug. 27, on the Windward Islands of the eastern Caribbean, 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 for Puerto Rico and for the Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Samaná and tropical storm warnings for Martinique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The center said the storm has maximum sustained winds near 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and is forecast to strengthen during the next 48 hours before passing near or south of the U.S. territory.

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.

Puerto Ricans have been urged by their governor to prepare for the coming storm. Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on Monday declared a state of emergency for the island.

“I urge citizens to activate their emergency plan with caution and peace of mind,” Vázquez said on Twitter. “For citizens who do not yet have safe roofs, we will have shelters ready.”

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.

Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said Dorian “is said to be weakening and that is great news, but we are not out of danger yet.”

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, Grenada, Saba, St. Eustatius and parts of the Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Punta Palenque and from Samaná to Puerto Plata.

In St. Lucia, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said “we are expecting the worst” and announced that everything on the island of nearly 179,000 people would shut down Monday evening ahead of the storm, but it remained below hurricane strength early Tuesday.

In Puerto Rico, some grocery stores had run out of bottled water as people rushed to buy supplies including generators and filled their cars with gas. Many are 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.

On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed an executive order 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.

Tropical storm Dorian shopping
Residents stand in line at a grocery store as they prepare for the arrival of Tropical Storm Dorian, in Bridgetown, Barbados on Aug. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Brandis)
Tropical storm Dorian 1
Residents board up a storefront pharmacy as they prepare for the arrival of Tropical Storm Dorian, in Bridgetown, Barbados on Aug. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Brandis)

Also on Monday, a new tropical depression formed between the U.S. eastern coast and Bermuda. It was located about 365 miles (590 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and was moving east at 2 mph (4 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph). It was expected to become a tropical storm by Tuesday night and continue blowing off the U.S. East Coast this week on a path to Canada’s North Atlantic provinces.

This Is Peak Hurricane Season

Dorian is the fourth named storm of this hurricane season—a season that generally peaks in the eight weeks surrounding Sept. 10.

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

That’s because that is the time when conditions in the tropics become prime for storm development. By the end of August, waters in the tropics have warmed and wind shear across the Atlantic begins to weaken.

And this year, El Nino has dissipated, making conditions even more favorable for development.

By Danica Coto

The CNN Wire contributed to this article.