Dorian could become Cat 2 hurricane by weekend

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Most of Florida could see a wet Labor Day weekend, with the East Coast facing a Category 2 hurricane as Tropical Storm Dorian moves across the Atlantic Ocean, according to the latest forecast from the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). 

While the forecast path has shifted to the north slightly, it is still projected to hit the Florida coast on Sunday afternoon or early evening, the latest models indicated.

"Tropical Storm Dorian is now expected to become a hurricane by this weekend, as it approaches the Florida coast," said FOX 35 Chief Meteorologist Glenn Richards.  "Models are trending a bit north and trying to turn Dorian to the north, as we approach Saturday, but it's still too early to tell."

Dorian was located about 275 miles (443 km)  southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday night. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph) and was forecast to strengthen during the next 24 hours as it moves west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph). The storm is expected to dump 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) of rain with isolated amounts of 8 inches (20 cm).

Dorian is forecast to move near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday night, and near or to the east of the central Bahamas on Friday. 

The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and a tropical storm warning for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A tropical storm watch was in force for the Dominican Republic from Samana to Puerto Plata.

RELATED: Puerto Rico braces for Dorian

In a tweet Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis advised East Coast residents to start preparing for Dorian.

"Based on the current track of #TropicalStormDorian, all residents on the East Coast should prepare for impacts, including strong winds, heavy rain and flooding," DeSantis tweeted. "Make sure to have your supplies ready and follow @FLSERT (the Florida Division of Emergency Management) and local media for the latest updates on the forecast."

DeSantis held a conference call with Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and later with the entire state emergency response team.

With South Florida Water Management District meteorologists predicting rainfall of up to 8 inches in some areas over the weekend, the district announced Tuesday it has started to draw down canals to help local drainage districts and governments reduce flooding.

Forecasters remain uncertain on the track and strength of the hurricane season's fourth tropical storm.  Residents should monitor the progress of Dorian and have their hurricane plan in place. 


You can also monitor the tropics with the Fox 35 Weather App

Elsewhere, in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Erin has formed well off the U.S. East Coast.  The National Hurricane Service says the storm is forecast to move northward and north eastward over the open Atlantic with no threat to land.

Erin is drifting toward the west near 2 mph (3 kph). The storm is expected to begin moving northward Tuesday night and northeastward Wednesday with an increase in forward speed. Erin 275 miles (442 kilometers) east southeast of Puerto Rico with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). 

Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph (64 kph) with higher gusts.