Hurricane Dorian threatens Puerto Rico

146

A couple boards up the door of their beachfront house as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Yabucoa, Puerto RicoImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

A couple boards up the door of their beachfront house as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico

Hurricane Dorian, a category one storm, is bearing down on Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from its ravaging by Hurricane Maria two years ago.

US forecasters said Dorian could make landfall on the populous eastern side of the US territory on Wednesday.

Dorian is then projected to head for the US, possibly making landfall in eastern Florida as a category three hurricane.

US President Donald Trump has been criticising Puerto Rico.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionBBC Weather’s Stav Danaos looks at the track of Hurricane Dorian.

What’s the forecast?

The storm is packing winds of over 75mph (120 km/h) and is expected to bring up to 10in (25cm) of rain in some places.

Wind gusts of 111mph (178 km/h) have been reported as of Wednesday afternoon, local time, close to St Thomas as the hurricane’s eye passed near the island.

Forecasters have warned of life-threatening flash flooding, surf and rip current conditions as the storm moves across the islands.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Dorian will approach the eastern coast of Florida next Monday.

Schools on Puerto Rico are closed and there are fears of power cuts. Two cruise liners have adjusted their itineraries to avoid the territory.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

What did President Trump say?

Late on Tuesday, President Trump approved an emergency declaration authorising federal agencies to provide disaster relief.

He also lashed out at Puerto Rico as the island hunkered down for Dorian’s approach.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, he said the island’s government was “broken” and “corrupt”.

He added that he was “the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico”.

Carmen Yulin Cruz. mayor of the Puerto Rican capital San Juan, tweeted: “THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS; THIS IS ABOUT SAVING LIVES.”

On Tuesday, Mr Trump tweeted: “Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?”

The president has previously faced political censure for his 2017 response to Hurricane Maria.

He rated his handling of the disaster as a “tremendous success” while disputing official findings of the spiralling death toll.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

A woman purchases bottled water from a local grocery store as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Has Puerto Rico recovered from Maria?

Some 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico still do not have proper roofs, merely tarps, according to US media.

The territory remains burdened with more than $70bn in debt – a crisis exacerbated by storms.

Nearly 3,000 of the island’s over three million residents died as a result of Maria – many due to poor healthcare and a lack of electricity and clean water.

More than 1,000 roads remain blocked by that storm’s landslides, the island’s transportation secretary has said.

It took 11 months to restore full power to the island, and recurring electricity cuts caused further deaths from diabetes and sepsis.

The storm was the most intense cyclone worldwide that year and caused an estimated $100bn (£77bn) in damage.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhy Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico so hard