ORLANDO, Florida — Tropical Storm Dorian held steady with 50 mph winds overnight and early Tuesday but is expected to “gradually intensify,” and Central Florida and South Florida are still in the storm’s projected path, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. update. Hispaniola is bracing for impact in 36 to 48 hours and a new tropical storm warning and hurricane watch were issued for Puerto Rico and part of the Dominican Republic, the NHC said early Tuesday.
Dorian is still forecast to be a hurricane when it passes near or over Puerto Rico.
“Dorian is forecast to pass near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, move near or over eastern Hispaniola Wednesday night, and move north of Hispaniola on Thursday,” the NHC said early Tuesday.
“We do anticipate kind of an ebb and flow,” Fox 35 meteorologist Jayme King said early Tuesday. “It is a small storm and has a few obstacles to encounter, but it will probably gain some strength and peak at 70 mph over the next few days, though that could certainly change. My message this morning is stay aware, and have a plan for you and your family in the event this impacts Central Florida as we head into the Labor Day weekend.”
Dorian is expected to bring tropical storm conditions to parts of the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday morning, and tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for that area with rainfall up to 10 inches possible in isolated areas.
The hurricane center’s updated track projected that Dorian could be off the coast of Jupiter early Sunday, but the cone of uncertainty shows it could also be anywhere from north of Orlando to west of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico by that time.
However, in a bit of good news, the NHC said at least one of its models also shows the storm may dissipate by Saturday before it ever reaches the Florida. For now, through, the storm remains a threat in the Caribbean.
A tropical storm warning is also in effect early Tuesday for Martinique and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for Grenada and its dependencies, Saba and St. Eustatius, Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Punta Palenque, and Dominican Republic from Samana to Puerto Plata.
Tropical Storm Dorian was located about 15 miles west-northwest of St. Lucia and moving to the west-northwest at 13 mph as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, the NHC said. The storm is expected to make a northwest turn on Wednesday.
An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter that was investigating Dorian on Tuesday morning found the storm held steady overnight.
However, forecasters said that “although some dry mid-level air is likely to continue to affect Dorian while it moves over the northeastern Caribbean, the dynamical guidance that the shear will not become very strong. Therefore it is still expected that the cyclone will become a hurricane in a couple of days.”
Puerto Rico is still recovering from being battered in 2017 by Category 4 Hurricane Maria. Early Tuesday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said it is sending a team to San Juan ahead of the storm’s expected arrival.
The critical time for the storm — as far as Florida and the Bahamas are concerned — will come after it passes Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.
“Some disruption of the system will likely occur when the center moves near eastern Hispaniola. The official intensity forecast is on the high end of the model guidance and is subject to considerable uncertainty, particularly from days 3 to 5,” hurricane forecasters said.
Forecast models differ on what will happen to Dorian, including one (the GFS) which forecasts that the system will dissipate after passing Hispaniola.
The National Hurricane Center said now is the time for Floridians to pay attention to the storm.
“While uncertainty is high, wind and rain impacts are possible in the Bahamas and Florida later this week and this weekend. Residents in these areas should monitor the progress of Dorian and ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place,” the hurricane center said.
Meanwhile, a system that had been hanging around Florida before heading out into the Atlantic officially became a tropical depression on Monday evening.
Tropical Depression 6 had maximum-sustained winds of 35 mph on Tuesday morning, and is expected to become Tropical Storm Erin later Tuesday.
“The cyclone is expected to begin to accelerate northeastward on Wednesday, and this general motion should continue through Thursday,” forecasters said. “On the forecast track, the center of the depression will remain well east of the east coast of the United States.”