BY BRETT CLARKSON AND TONYA ALANEZ
FORT LAUDERDALE – Tropical Storm Dorian Tuesday was bringing heavy rains and gusty winds to the eastern Caribbean as the storm moved west and put the eastern part of the Dominican Republic under a tropical storm warning.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dorian was located about 60 miles northwest of St. Lucia — or about 1,500 miles from South Florida — with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and moving toward the northwest at 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
According to the latest update, Dorian is forecast to have winds close to, but below, hurricane strength during the next five days.
“On the forecast track, the center of Dorian will move across the eastern and northeastern Caribbean Sea during the next few days, passing near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, move near or over eastern Hispaniola Wednesday night, and move north of Hispaniola on Thursday,” Senior Hurricane Specialist Stacy Stewart wrote in the late morning advisory.
Puerto Rico is still recovering from the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
By Thursday night and Friday, Dorian will be closing in on the southeastern Bahamas.
What lies in store for South Florida depends on how Dorian interacts with the high terrain of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which make up the island of Hispaniola. The government of the Dominican Republic has issued a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning for portions of the country.
The director of the National Hurricane Center, Kenneth Graham, said Tuesday that there are so many unknowns that it’s hard to predict Dorian’s impacts on South Florida. But in an interview on WSVN-Ch. 7, Graham said people need to pay attention and be ready over the weekend, just in case.
“It’s such an undetermined situation here. If it’s a weaker storm you can see some gusty winds and some rainfall but if it stays stronger — right now we’re looking at the potential for a tropical storm,” he told the station.
“So, preparedness is everything, it’s having that plan ready just in case,” Graham said.
CRUISE SHIPS REROUTED
Due to the tropical storm, Miami-based Royal Caribbean rerouted its Symphony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas ships from eastern to western Caribbean routes.
“We continue to monitor the path of Tropical Storm Dorian and potential impact to our vessels and will communicate any scheduling changes to our guests,” said spokeswoman Melissa Charbonneau.
Carnival Cruise line, based in Doral, issued a statement saying it, too, is monitoring Dorian.
“The safety of our guests and crew is our number one priority and our ships will remain a safe distance from the storm at all times. In the event any changes to our itineraries are necessary, we will update our guests accordingly.”
Carnival said all if its ships that call on ports in the Caribbean and the Bahamas are avoiding the storm.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC PATH
Dorian is a relatively small storm physically with tropical storm-strength winds extending up to 45 miles out from the core. The storm’s winds, at 50 mph, did not change during the overnight hours. Hurricanes are marked by a minimum top wind strength of 74 mph.
The storm is expected to strike or pass very close to the Dominican Republic with winds at or near 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Dorian is edging toward the islands that form the southeastern gateway to the Caribbean. St. Lucia was under a hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible there within the next 24 hours.
Other islands were under a tropical storm warning, meaning tropical storm conditions were expected there within the next 36 hours. Those islands include Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
And still some other islands were under a tropical storm watch, meaning that tropical storm conditions were possible, not necessarily expected, over the next 48 hours. Those islands were Puerto Rico, Dominica, Grenada, and Saba and St. Eustatius.
TYPICAL LATE AUGUST ROUTE
Dorian is expected to emerge in the eastern Caribbean Sea on Tuesday. It will then near Puerto Rico close to hurricane strength, on Wednesday and close in on the Dominican Republic after that.
In terms of its direction, Dorian is doing the typical late August route. The storm is marching west across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean as is typical of storms that form during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from mid-August to late October.
Dorian is then expected to make a northwest turn on Wednesday, which is also common for peak season storms.
The northwest turn is what could potentially steer the storm to Florida.
Hurricane forecasters say it’s too early yet to tell with any certainty whether Florida will be impacted, but the constant message relayed to anybody living in a potential hurricane impact zone is to always be vigilant and ready with supplies and a plan.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center also says Tropical Depression Six has formed about 365 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, according to the 5 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
But while the depression is expected to strengthen to a tropical storm on Monday night or Tuesday, it was far enough out in the water to pose no threat to the United States.
“On the forecast track, the center of the depression will remain well east of the east coast of the United States,” said the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but 95% of storms are produced during the peak period from mid-August to late October, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that conditions could be favorable for more dangerous storms than initially projected.
Staff writer Johnny Diaz contributed to this report.