A hurricane watch was issued for one Caribbean island and tropical storm warnings were in effect for several others Monday as Tropical Storm Dorian headed toward the region on a path that could send it near Puerto Rico by midweek.
Dorian, the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed as a tropical depression Saturday and quickly gathered strength. Puerto Rico's Governor Wanda Vazquez signed an executive order Monday declaring a state of emergency on the island as the storm continued its approach.
By Monday afternoon, it was 95 miles east-southeast of Barbados, moving west-northwest at 14 mph with maximum winds of 60 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in a 2 p.m. ET advisory.
St. Lucia was under a hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions were possible there within the next 24 hours.
Meanwhile, tropical storm warnings had been put into effect for Barbados, Martinique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and tropical storm watches were issued for Grenada and Dominica.
The center of the storm was expected to go close to the Windward Islands late Monday, generating swells, potentially life-threatening, that could affect portions of the Lesser Antilles. It will then move into the eastern Caribbean Sea later Tuesday at near-hurricane strength. Forecasters expected it to pass near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, and approach eastern Hispaniola Wednesday night.
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Forecasters stressed that the storm's path could shift markedly before it reached populated areas, but projections Monday morning suggested Dorian would be either a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane as it approached Puerto Rico.
By the weekend, southeastern Florida could feel some of the effects of the lingering tropical system.
Dorian was expected to bring heavy rains of up to 10 inches in some areas — something that could be devastating for Puerto Rico. The island remains in crisis almost two years after Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killed almost 3,000 people in September 2017.
Puerto Rico's power grid, which was destroyed, remains severely compromised, and with its electric utility more than $9 billion in debt, the island's new governor earlier this month suspended a $450,000 contract that was to have been part of the rebuilding program.
As recently as June, Peter Gaynor, the acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, testified that FEMA remained significantly understaffed, telling the House Homeland Security Committee, "We're probably short a few thousand employees."
Dorian's arrival also comes as Puerto Rico is suffering from what is perhaps the worst political crisis in its history. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned late last month amid historic demonstrations after hundreds of offensive chats between him and his top advisers were published, some of which made light of the deaths from Maria.