Emergency declared in Florida over Hurricane Dorian

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(AP/Gray News) - Hurricane Dorian is moving away from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and forecasters say they expect it to strengthen into a powerful storm in the coming days as it heads closer to Florida.

Tropical Storm Dorian's path as of Wednesday morning. (Source: CNN)

The National Hurricane Center says Dorian has top sustained winds near 85 mph with higher gusts. At 11 p.m. ET Wednesday, it was centered about 90 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s moving to the northwest at 13 mph.

The Miami-based hurricane center says Dorian is on a track that should take the storm well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas in the next two days. It adds all indications are that by sometime in the Labor Day holiday weekend, the powerful hurricane will be near or over the Florida peninsula.

President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency and ordered federal assistance for the U.S. Virgin Islands as Hurricane Dorian moves away from the islands.

Reports of flooding and power outages were reported across the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after Dorian hit St. Thomas as a Category 1 storm.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency and is urging residents to take precautions as Hurricane Dorian strengthens in the Caribbean on a path expected to take it to the U.S. Mainland.

Florida officials said Wednesday that they are preparing for the hurricane to make landfall somewhere along the state's eastern shore.

The National Hurricane Center says the Category 1 storm could grow into a dangerous Category 3 hurricane as it swirls toward Florida.

While the storm's track remains uncertain, the governor says people should stock up on at least a week's worth of food and water, but be prepared to evacuate when advised.

The governor’s declaration allows resources to be more efficiently and urgently marshaled ahead of the hurricane’s arrival.

County governments along Florida's east-central coast have begun distributing sandbags, while many residents are rushing to warehouse retailers to load up on water, canned food and emergency supplies.

The prospect of Dorian already is dinging the region's tourism. The head of Volusa County's Lodging and Hospitality Association says hotel reservations there went from three-quarter capacity down to half through cancellations.

Disney plans to open its long-anticipated Star Wars Land on Thursday and that had been expected to drive attendance over the three-day weekend. There’s no word yet on any possible closure.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says the state is keeping any eye on Hurricane Dorian but he has not declared a state of emergency.

Kemp told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that emergency officials hope to have a clearer picture of the path of the Category 1 storm within the next 24 hours.

The governor is urging those who are traveling to Georgia's seacoast or to Florida to pay attention as Dorian approaches the Southeast. He says everyone should use caution because "we're not sure where this storm is going."

Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson says the state operations center will open Thursday afternoon.

Dennis Feltgen, with the NHC, says Dorian may also grow in size and could land anywhere from South Florida to South Carolina on Sunday or Monday.

The latest, still-uncertain extended forecast shows the storm’s sustained winds could grow to about 115 mph (185 kph) before landfall.

“With Dorian now getting better organized and the center shifting to the north and the east, now we have a stronger system coming out of the eastern Caribbean Sea and entering the southeast Atlantic,” Feltgen said.

Trump kicked up a renewed feud with officials in Puerto Rico, who were racing to prepare for Dorian, their first big emergency challenge since Hurricane Maria hit in 2017 and caused thousands of deaths.

Trump declared a state of emergency for the island and assured that federal disaster officials were ready to respond. But he added a jab at local officials who have called the federal response to Maria slow and inadequate, and he singled out what he called “the incompetent mayor of San Juan.”

In a tweet, he declared that “Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt” and asserted that aid for Puerto Rico is “more than anyplace else has ever gotten” — an assertion repeatedly knocked down by fact-checkers.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted back, saying that Trump needs to "calm down get out of the way and make way for those of us who are actually doing the work on the ground."

“This is not about him; this is not about politics; this is about saving lives,” she said.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved. Gray Television Group, Inc., contributed to this report.

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