Dorian strengthens into hurricane as Puerto Rico avoids direct hit

Dorian strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday afternoon as it made its way through the Caribbean. Puerto Rico, which was put under a state of emergency Tuesday night, would be spared from a direct hit, CBS News weather producer David Parkinson reported.

Dorian made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Parkinson reported. Rainfall amounts of 4 to 6 inches were expected, with 10 inches in some places.

The hurricane was expected to strengthen on a path for Florida’s Atlantic coast. The storm could make landfall in the U.S. as a Category 3 storm.

As of 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Dorian was packing 75 mph sustained winds. Its center was 45 miles northwest of St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and it was moving northwest at 14 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. Tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 80 miles from the center.

The projected path of Hurricane Dorian as of 5 p.m. ET on August 28, 2019 (NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER)

Watches and warnings in effect

A summary of watches and warnings in effect, via the National Hurricane Center.

  • Hurricane warning: Vieques, Culebra, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands
  • Hurricane watch: Puerto Rico
  • Tropical storm warning: Puerto Rico

A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 24 hours. A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within 24 hours.

A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within 24 hours.

Dorian could strengthen into a major hurricane

Dorian has thrown forecasters a few curve balls over the past day, the biggest of which was a large shift to the east. While that is good news for Puerto Rico, it is a bad sign for the U.S. East Coast.

The reason the storm has shifted is because its circulation has been rather disorganized and big convective bursts (clusters of thunderstorms) on the east side of the circulation are making the system lopsided, pulling and tugging the center further east.

This means Dorian will avoid the beating it would have taken if the system had passed over the high mountains of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Instead, it will emerge north of the islands Wednesday night as a healthy storm system. That healthy system can then more easily intensify as it moves north.

Knowing this, the next question is: Will the system enter an environment favorable for intensification? Increasingly, the answer seems to be yes.

— Jeff Berardelli

FEMA official: “We’re much better prepared”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud the agency is better prepared for Tropical Storm Dorian than it was two years ago for Hurricane Maria. The federal government has sent 500 employees to Puerto Rico in addition to the 3,000 they had already sent.

Begnaud asked Nick Russo, FEMA’s Puerto Rico field leader, what gave him the confidence that the agency was better prepared now. “The amount of supplies we have,” he said.

“There’s probably 10 times the commodities on the island that were here pre-Maria, so we’ve spent the last two years learning some lessons and making sure that we’re much better prepared,” Russo told Begnaud.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority CEO José Ortiz made the bold prediction that if the power were to fail on the island, he would have the lights back on in two weeks.

“We have to restore as quick as possible,” Ortiz told Begnaud. “It’s not acceptable what happened the last time. Many people wait for 11 months to get power back. Imagine if it was your family, so it’s going to be different.”

Begnaud also reports FEMA brought in 100 satellite phones to give to every mayor on the island, and they were activated Wednesday morning.

Author: CBS News
Writer:WINK News
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