SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Dorian threatened Puerto Rico with a direct hit on Wednesday, as forecasters said it made a last-minute shift in its path and could reach Category 3 hurricane strength in its approaches Florida.
President Donald Trump declared an emergency Tuesday night and ordered federal assistance for local authorities.
“Practically the entire island will be under sustained tropical storm force winds,” said Roberto García, director of U.S. National Weather Service San Juan, during a press conference late Tuesday.
The storm is expected to dump 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain with isolated amounts of 8 inches (20 centimeters).
The change in the storm’s course concerned many across the U.S. territory, where some 30,000 homes still have blue tarps as roofs nearly two years after Hurricane Maria. The island’s 3.2 million inhabitants still depend on a shaky power grid that has remained prone to outages since it was destroyed by the Category 4 storm.
Jorge Ortiz, a 50-year-old construction worker, was taking no chances. Wiping sweat from his brow, Ortiz climbed up a shaky ladder under a punishing morning sun and tied down pieces of zinc that now serve as his roof because Maria ripped the second floor off his house when it hit on Sept. 20, 2017.
He was forced to rebuild everything himself and finished just three months ago with no assistance from the local or federal government.
“They told me I didn’t qualify because it was a total loss,” he said, shaking his head as he added that he was wary. “I’m worried that despite all this sacrifice, I’ll lose it again.”
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 Samaná to Puerto Plata.
Dorian already caused power outages and downed trees in Barbados and St. Lucia, and a still-uncertain long-term track showed the storm near Florida over the weekend.