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Chances Increasing That Tropical Storm Dorian Will Affect Parts of Florida This Weekend

Puerto Rico is under a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch as Tropical Storm Dorian is expected to be near hurricane strength before making landfall there on Wednesday on a track toward Florida’s east coast by this weekend.

The Dominican Republic also is under a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning as the storm continues to march toward Puerto Rico.

Latest forecast data suggests there is an increasing chance that Dorian will affect parts of Florida this weekend, and meteorologists with the South Florida Water Management District some areas could see more than 8 inches of rain.

However, the location, timing and extent of those impacts cannot be credibly projected at this time.

Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents on Florida's East Coast to start preparing for Dorian. 

As of Tuesday at 2 p.m., the storm was located about 70 miles west-northwest of Martinique and moving west-northwest at 13 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, with tropical storm-force gusts extending up to 45 miles from the center.

PREVIOUS STORY: Will Tropical Storm Dorian Survive In The Caribbean?

On its current path, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center say the storm will be near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday and move north of Hispaniola on Thursday.

Dorian is forecast to dump up to 10 inches of rain on Martinique and up to 8 inches on Puerto Rico.

Thereafter, forecasters have expressed “considerable uncertainty” on the track and strength of the season’s fourth tropical storm. Potential interactions with land, and the extent to which Dorian’s structure may be affected, are difficult to ascertain with any confidence at this point.

“Forecast data is starting to suggest the tropical storm will sneak through the island chain and come out near the Bahamas as a formidable system, one that we’ll need to watch closely,” said Jeff Huffman, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “But there’s still a huge amount of uncertainty on how those islands may affect its intensity. It’s something we may not know until Thursday.”

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Either way, the forecast as of Tuesday at 2 p.m. had the entire Florida coast – including Tampa Bay – within the cone of uncertainty. It is expected to be within a few hundred miles of West Palm Beach by Saturday night.

“Whether it’s a remnant that doesn’t have a chance to regenerate or if it’s a hurricane, it does look like it’s going to take aim on the state of Florida,” said Mark Wool, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. “The track may shift north or south a little bit. Currently, it’s forecast to track in somewhere just south of Cape Canaveral, so somewhere on the East-Central Florida coast.”

Wood said the storm could be disrupted as it crosses the mountains in Hispaniola but could strengthen “once it passes by those islands and gets to the Bahamas.”

The current forecast also could jeopardize Florida State University's college football opener Saturday against Boise State in Jacksonville.

“We are going to be keeping them informed about what conditions are going to be looking like there,” Wool said. “It has happened in the past where football games have been postponed because of tropical systems. We are going to make sure they have that information at the ready to make that call, if the time comes to do so.”

The average forecast track error of a forecast 48 hours into the future is around 60 nautical miles (either side of the line), based on data published by the National Hurricane Center since 1970. The produces a diameter of uncertainty larger than Puerto Rico is wide (west to east), which is about 110 miles. This “cone of uncertainty”, as it is often called, is nearly 400 miles wide at the time Dorian could make landfall in Florida, or roughly the distance from Miami to Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Six formed about 30 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. It is moving east and could become a tropical storm Tuesday night as it moves off the East Coast and toward the Canadian Maritime provinces.

Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network and News Service of Florida was used in this report.