Tropical storm warnings were in effect for several Caribbean islands Sunday as Tropical Storm Dorian headed toward the region on a path that could send it crashing into Puerto Rico as a hurricane by midweek.
Dorian, the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, formed as a tropical depression on Saturday and quickly gathered strength.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, it was several hundred miles southeast of Barbados, but maximum winds had increased to 50 mph as it moved west at about 14 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
A turn northwest was expected overnight, forecasters said, sending the center of Dorian near the Windward Islands late Monday or early Tuesday and into the eastern Caribbean Sea later Tuesday.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect late Sunday afternoon for Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while tropical storm watches were issued for Martinique and Grenada.
Forecasters stressed that the storm’s path could shift markedly before it reached populated areas, but the forecast projections late Sunday afternoon suggested Dorian would be a Category 1 hurricane as it approached Puerto Rico about midafternoon on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico 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 was also approaching as Puerto Rico is suffering under 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.