Tropical Storm Dorian takes aim at Puerto Rico — live updates

/ CBS News

Caribbean islands prepare for Tropical Storm Dorian

Puerto Rico's governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced, has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches the island. Residents rushed to stores for supplies to prepare for power outages and heavy rains.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Dorian's winds have hit speeds up 50 miles per hour and are expected to strengthen as the storm continues its path.

As of 2 p.m. ET, Dorian's center was located about 370 miles east-southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and about 70 miles west-northwest of Martinique. The hurricane center said the storm was moving west-northwest at 13 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles from the center.

This image shows the latest trajectory of Tropical Storm Dorian. The National Hurricane Center

Miami search and rescue team heading to Puerto Rico

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is sending a 45-member team Puerto Rico before the storm reaches the island. The team is traveling to San Juan on Tuesday and will be on standby for rescue operations.

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Andy Alvarez of Miami Dade Fire Rescue said the team should have an advantage because they spent time on the island after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. "We know the terrain, we know the main streets, thoroughfares to get around because we used them already, we have the contacts for the fuel," he told CBS Miami.

Florida governor urges residents to prepare

Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, is urging residents to prepare before heavy rain hits the state. Local meteorologists are predicting 6-8 inches of rain in several areas this weekend as the storm approaches the Florida coast.

"Based on the current track of [Dorian], all residents on the East Coast should prepare for impacts, including strong winds, heavy rain and flooding," DeSantis tweeted Tuesday.

"Make sure to have your supplies ready and follow @FLSERT and local media for the latest updates on the forecast," he added.

Watches and warnings in effect

A summary of watches and warnings in effect, via the National Hurricane Center.

A critical moment for Dorian is hours away

The future of Dorian largely hinges on one key factor called the Mona Passage. This 80-mile wide ocean corridor, which sits between the islands of Hispañiola and Puerto Rico, will determine if Dorian dissipates or perseveres. The storm is now located in the Caribbean, a small storm surrounded by a hostile environment of abundant dry air.

Regardless of impact, Wednesday night is a critical moment for the future of Dorian and its eventual impact on Florida. At that time, the core of Dorian will either move over Puerto Rico, over the Dominican Republic, or in between the two, through the narrow waters of the Mona Passage.

If the core of Dorian moves slightly west of there, over the center of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, it will encounter towering mountainous terrain with elevations over 5,000 feet. That would destroy the storm's structure and circulation, crippling the system as it enters the Bahamas. It would have a hard time putting the pieces back together and strengthening before its arrival this weekend in Florida.

However, if Dorian's core threads the needle between the islands and passes over, or near, the narrow Mona Passage, then the storm's core and circulation will remain structurally sound. In this scenario, the storm would be able to take advantage of the very warm water north of Puerto Rico, in the Turks & Caicos Islands and Bahamas, to potentially re-intensify.

A track over the island of Puerto Rico, to the east of the consensus forecast, would yield a scenario somewhere in the middle, where Dorians' core would be weakened but not incapacitated.

— Jeff Berardelli

First published on August 27, 2019 / 5:06 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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