NEW YORK (NBC) – Hurricane Dorian swept by Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday, on track for what could be landfall as a Category 3 storm in Florida over the weekend. An 80-year-old man died in Puerto Rico when he fell from a ladder while preparing his home for the storm, police said.
Few casualties and little confirmed damage were reported in the Caribbean as Dorian, which became a hurricane Wednesday afternoon, skirted Puerto Rico.
The sole confirmed casualty was the death of a man that police in Bayamón confirmed to NBC News was connected to Dorian.
Police told Telemundo PR, the San Juan affiliate of NBC News’ Spanish-language network, that the 80-year-old man was climbing a ladder to clear drains at his home in preparation for the storm when he slipped and fell, sustaining a fatal head injury.
Dorian was northeast of Puerto Rico on Wednesday night and was tracking northwest at 13 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. All watches and warnings were canceled in the region.
But that’s expected to be only a temporary lull — forecasters said Dorian looked likely to gather steam over the Atlantic Ocean in the next two days and could threaten the Bahamas this weekend and then parts of Florida as a powerful hurricane.
The hurricane center stressed that Dorian’s path could shift again, but projections Wednesday night suggested it could arrive as a Category 3 storm with winds of 111 mph to 129 mph along Florida’s Atlantic coast sometime late Sunday into Monday afternoon.
The southeastern United States was expected to get 4 to 8 inches of rain, with some isolated areas seeing 10 inches, forecasters said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for parts of the state on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” he said in a statement. “Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster.”
Jared Moskowitz, director of the state Emergency Operations Center, said that because of the unclear path projection, “we have to plan for all contingencies,” NBC affiliate WJHG of Panama City reported.
“People turn on the news, and nobody knows where the storm is going, right?” Moskowitz said. “They see what’s going on and they factor in, well, where is it going? Is is going to Jacksonville? Is it going to Dade County?”
In Polk County, in central Florida southwest of Orlando, officials were sounding the alarm about the potential for devastating floods when Dorian dumps its rain on wetlands already waterlogged by this summer’s weather.
“That’s a big concern, that we’re already saturated,” Jay Jarvis, the county’s director of roads and drainage, told NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa.
“We’re already really wet,” Jarvis said. “That much more water is going to create flooding across the county.”