MIAMI, Florida — The Caribbean islands will get a break Thursday as Hurricane Dorian moves away from land and into open water where it is forecast to grow into a major storm over Labor Day weekend before landing in Florida.
As of Wednesday night, Dorian was 90 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was moving northwest at 13 mph. The storm is expected to continue northwest Thursday and then potentially turn more western starting Friday evening.
The National Weather Service said Dorian is likely to be a “major hurricane” bringing storm surge, high winds, and heavy rains to Florida.
On that track, there are no significant bodies of land in Dorian’s immediate path. Traveling over water will help Dorian strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane by Thursday evening, with even more room to grow as it nears the warm waters of the Bahamas Saturday.
At that time, Dorian’s sustained winds could go from its current 85 mph to 115 mph — making it a Category 3 storm — as it approaches the Florida coast.
Moving toward Florida
Now that Dorian has bypassed Puerto Rico and swept across the British and US Virgin Islands, Florida is now its greatest target.
Over the next few days, the storm is expected to strengthen to a Category 3 or higher in time to reach the US mainland in Florida.
“Dorian will likely be a very formidable hurricane as it approaches late Sunday into Monday morning,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and urged all residents on the coast to get ready for the storm.
“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” DeSantis said. “Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster.”
And while current forecasts have Dorian reaching Florida as a strong storm, meteorologists warn that it is still too early to know with confidence where and when it will hit the US mainland.
Virgin Islands hardest hit
The worst of Dorian hit the British and US Virgin Islands Wednesday.
After strengthening from a tropical storm to a hurricane, Dorian reached the US Virgin Islands with 80 mph winds.
Local authorities declared a state of emergency as trees toppled and power lines went down on the islands.
And while the storm was strong, the response was swift. Restoration processes began around 4 p.m. local time in the St. Thomas and St. John districts, and about 25,000 power outages in St. Croix were restored around 7 p.m. local time Wednesday, Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Director of Communications Jean Greaux told CNN.
“Within an hour of its passage, The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority mobilized crews to conduct a damage assessment. We immediately commenced restoration of service. Crews are now dispersed addressing isolated or pocket outages in a few locations,” Greaux said.
Hurricane advisories have been discontinued for the island, with winds overnight Wednesday dropping below 25 mph and rainfall scattering as the storm moves away, said Shackelford.
Puerto Rico spared predicted damage
Puerto Rico, still recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017, was prepared for the storm to exacerbate the existing damage to infrastructure.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on Monday declared a state of emergency for the island and urged people to prepare for the storm. Schools across Puerto Rico were closed Wednesday.
“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.
One man died after falling from the roof of his house while cleaning a drain in preparation for the storm, Puerto Rico Public safety Secretary Elmer Roman said.
Otherwise, Dorian did not have as devastating an impact on the island as feared.