SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The government of Barbados urged residents of the eastern Caribbean island to remain vigilant Tuesday even as Tropical Storm Dorian appeared to have done little damage as it heads toward the northern Windward islands and Puerto Rico.
Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said the storm “is said to be weakening and that is great news, but we are not out of danger yet.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center on Tuesday had tropical storm warnings in effect for Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Tropical storm watches were in force for Dominica, Grenada, Saba and St. Eustatius and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
The center says the storm has maximum sustained winds near 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and is forecast to strengthen during the next 48 hours as it moves toward Puerto Rico.
“Dorian is forecast to be a hurricane when it moves near Puerto Rico and eastern Hispaniola,” the center said.
The storm was expected to dump between 3 to 8 inches (8 to 20 centimeters) of rain in the Windward islands, with isolated amounts of 10 inches (25 centimeters).
Much of Barbados shut down Monday as Dorian approached and authorities urged residents to remain indoors amid reports of electrical outages and other minor incidents.
In St. Lucia, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced that everything on the island of nearly 179,000 people would shut down by 6 p.m. EDT on Monday, with the hurricane expected to hit around 2 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.
“We are expecting the worst,” he said.
Some were still boarding up windows and buying food and water, but not Joannes Lamontagne, who lives in the island’s southwest region. He said by phone that everything at his hotel, Serenity Escape, was already protected.
“I don’t wait until it’s announced,” he said of the storm. “We’re always prepared no matter what.”
In Puerto Rico, hundreds of people have been crowding into grocery stores and gas stations to prepare for Dorian, buying food, water and generators, among other things. Many are worried about power outages and heavy rains on an island still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit in September 2017. Some 30,000 homes still have blue tarps as roofs and the electrical grid remains fragile and prone to outages even during brief rain showers.
Forecasters said the storm could pass near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday and approach the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night.
On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency and provided a list of all the new equipment that public agencies have bought since Hurricane Maria.
“I want everyone to feel calm,” she said. “Agency directors have prepared for the last two years. The experience of Maria has been a great lesson for everyone.”
She said public schools will close Tuesday afternoon and that at least one cruise ship canceled its trip to Puerto Rico. She said those without a proper roof can stay in one of the 360 shelters around the island.
Also on Monday, a new tropical depression formed between the U.S. eastern coast and Bermuda. It was located about 320 miles (515 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and was moving east at 3 mph (6 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph). It was expected to become a tropical storm by Tuesday night.