Dorian Aims for U.S., Causes Limited Damage in Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -
Category-1 strength winds bend palm trees as Hurricane Dorian slams into St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands August 28, 2019. (Cassandra Crichlow via Reuters)

Hurricane Dorian caused limited damage in the northern Caribbean as it left the region and gathered strength late Wednesday, setting its sights on the U.S. mainland as it threatened to grow into a Category 3 storm.

Power outages and flooding were reported across the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after Dorian hit St. Thomas as a Category 1 storm.

“We’re happy because there are no damages to report,” Culebra Mayor William Solís told The Associated Press, noting that only one community lost power.

Meanwhile, Dorian caused an island-wide blackout in St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and scattered power outages in St. Croix, government spokesman Richard Motta told the AP. In addition, the storm downed trees and at least one electric post in St. Thomas, he said, adding that there were no reports of major flooding so far.

“We are grateful that it wasn’t a stronger storm,” he said.

There were no immediate reports of damage in the British Virgin Islands, where Gov. Augustus Jaspert said crews were already clearing roads and inspecting infrastructure by late Wednesday afternoon.

Dorian had prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency Tuesday night and order federal assistance for local authorities.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Dorian was located 45 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) while moving northwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

The Hurricane Center said the storm could grow into a dangerous Category 3 storm as it pushes northwest in the general direction of Florida.

Dennis Feltgen, a Hurricane Center meteorologist in Miami, said Dorian may grow in size and could land anywhere from South Florida to South Carolina on Sunday or Monday.

“This will be a large storm approaching the Southeast,” he said.

People in Florida were starting to get ready for a possible Labor Day weekend strike, with county governments along Florida’s east-central coast distributing sandbags and many residents rushing to warehouse retailers to load up on water, canned food and emergency supplies.

“All Floridians on the East Coast should have 7 days of supplies, prepare their homes & follow the track closely,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a tweet. Later Wednesday, he declared a state of emergency for the counties in the storm’s path.

Dorian initially had been projected to brush the western part of Puerto Rico and the change in the storm’s course caught some off guard in Culebra and Vieques, both popular tourist destinations.

Earlier, Trump sent a tweet assuring islanders that “FEMA and all others are ready, and will do a great job.”

Dorian earlier caused power outages and downed trees in Barbados and St. Lucia and flooding in islands including Martinique.

Jorge Ortiz works to tie down his roof as he prepares for the arrival of Tropical Storm Dorian, in the Martín Peña neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Gianfranco Gaglione)
Emergency Center personnel stand next to a screen showing a meteorological image of the tropical storm Dorian, in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man surveys the beach as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Humacao, Puerto Rico August 28, 2019. (Reuters/Ricardo Arduengo)
Coast Guard personnel attach hurricane shutters to windows in preparation of Tropical Storm Dorian at Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico. (U.S. Coast Guard/Ricardo Castrodad/Handout via Reuters/File)
Citizens stock up on gasoline a few hours before the passing of tropical storm Dorian, in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Updated Wednesday, August 28, 2019 at 8:54 pm Added picture gallery