Hurricane Dorian caused limited damage in the northern Caribbean as it left the region on Wednesday night, setting its sights on the US mainland.
It is expected to gather strength and could to grow into a dangerous Category 3 storm.
Power outages and flooding were reported across the US 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.
“We’re happy because there are no damages to report,” Culebra Mayor William Solis said, noting that only one community lost power.
Meanwhile, Dorian caused an island-wide blackout in St Thomas and St John in the US Virgin Islands, and scattered power outages in St Croix, government spokesman Richard Motta said.
In addition, the storm downed trees and at least one electric post in St Thomas, he said, adding that there were no reports of major flooding.
“We are grateful that it wasn’t a stronger storm,” he said.
There were no immediate reports of damage in the British Virgin Islands, where Governor Augustus Jaspert said crews were already clearing roads and inspecting infrastructure by late Wednesday afternoon.
Dorian had prompted US president Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency on Tuesday night and order federal assistance for local authorities.
At 11pm EDT (4am BST), Dorian was centred about 90 miles north of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.
The US National Hurricane Centre said its maximum sustained winds had increased to 85 mph as the storm moved north-west at 13mph.
The organisation said the storm could grow into a Category 3 as it heads in the general direction of Florida.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 29, 2019
Dennis Feltgen, a Hurricane Centre meteorologist in Miami, said Dorian could land anywhere from South Florida to South Carolina on Sunday or Monday.
“This will be a large storm approaching the Southeast,” he said.
People in Florida were starting to get ready for a possible Labour Day weekend strike, with county governments along Florida’s east-central coast distributing sandbags and many residents rushing to warehouse retailers to load up on water, canned food and emergency supplies.
“All Floridians on the East Coast should have seven days of supplies, prepare their homes and follow the track closely,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a tweet. Later on Wednesday, he declared a state of emergency for the counties in the storm’s path.
A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning remained in effect for Puerto Rico, with Dorian expected to dump four to six inches (10 to 15cm) of rain with isolated amounts of eight inches (20cm) in the eastern part of the island.
Hurricane #Dorian is now moving north of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where conditions will improve tonight. The hurricane will continue NW through Thursday night before turning WNW on Friday. pic.twitter.com/9Ti0CR3tbw
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 28, 2019
However, Puerto Rico seemed to be spared any heavy wind and rain, a huge relief to many on an island where blue tarps still cover some 30,000 homes nearly two years after Hurricane Maria.
The island’s 3.2 million inhabitants also depend on an unstable power grid that remains prone to outages since it was destroyed by Maria, a Category 4 storm.
Dorian had initially been projected to brush the western part of Puerto Rico and the change in the storm’s course caught some off guard in Culebra and Vieques, both popular tourist destinations.
Dorian earlier caused power outages and downed trees in Barbados and St Lucia and flooding in islands including Martinique.