The National Hurricane Center upgraded Tropical Storm Dorian to a hurricane shortly before it inundated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with rain on Wednesday. And while the amount of rain dumped on the islands rivaled the amount brought by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico was spared major damage. Not only is Dorian considerably less intense than Maria was, but the eye of the storm also diverted north of the island before it passed by.
Before Wednesday, the storm had been predicted to go between Puerto Rico and the eastern end of the Dominican Republic. But due to the way it changed course, Dorian avoided the island of Hispaniola altogether, instead giving most of its attention to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Fortunately for residents of those Caribbean islands, Dorian did relatively little damage before moving on.
Meteorologists predict that Hurricane Dorian will reach the Atlantic coast of Florida over Labor Day weekend, and they warn that it could intensify into a Category 3 hurricane by then.
“Dorian is likely to reach major hurricane strength in the next day or two and is forecast to maintain that status until it reaches land,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in a statement.
In advance of Dorian’s landfall, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency.
“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” he said.
“Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster. I will continue to monitor Hurricane Dorian closely with emergency management officials. The state stands ready to support all counties along the coast as they prepare.”
So far, Dorian has proven somewhat difficult to predict, owing to a combination of weather factors. Warm sea surface temperatures, which can favor intensification, have been countered by shearing winds and dry air in the Caribbean, both of which can weaken a storm.
And as Wednesday’s events showed, even the path of the storm is extremely unpredictable, as it completely sidestepped the Dominican Republic, which was under a hurricane watch.
So far, it seems that the intensifying factors have won out, as Hurricane Dorian will build in strength until it reaches Florida. But as we’ve seen, nothing is guaranteed.