Tuesday,  October 27, 2020  12:11 am

Puerto Rico issues hurricane watch for Dorian; braces for impact

Puerto Rico issues hurricane watch for Dorian; braces for impact
San Juan, after Hurricane Maria hit back in Sept. 2017. Photo: Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

As Tropical Storm Dorian continues to barrel closer through the Eastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico is on high alert, and has issued a hurricane watch for the mainland, as well as its smaller islands, Culebra and Vieques.

READ MORE: Canadian airlines offer travel waivers, cruise lines change routes as Dorian gains strength

A hurricane watch is also in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Back in 2017, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, both Category 5 storms, slammed into Puerto Rico, resulting in catastrophic damage and extreme loss of life (estimated reports are 2,900, according to CNN) and livelihood across the island. Tropical Storm Dorian is currently on the same trajectory as both Irma and Maria were, two years prior.

Now, two years later as rebuilding efforts continue, Puerto Rico is bracing for impact once more.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company has issued an alert in response to Tropical Storm Dorian. As of 5:00am, Tropical Storm Dorian coordinates were 16.8 N and 63.9 W, and heading northwest at 13mph. The system has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with higher gusts. If the storm continues on its current estimated path, the centre of Dorian will move across Fajardo, Vieques, and Culebra later today.

Bracing for impact

Tropical storm conditions are expected in Puerto Rico today.

Heavy rainfall over portions of Puerto Rico could produce flash flooding during the next couple of days. Swells are expected to increase along the east coasts of Puerto Rico and could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

All flights to Vieques and Culebra operated by Vieques Air Link and Cape Air have been cancelled.

Puerto Rico and its islands, Vieques and Culebra, pictured here, are currently on hurricane watch. Photo: Puerto Rico Tourism Company.

The Maritime Transportation Authority has been advised by the US Coast Guard that all service must be suspended.

Airlines are beginning to report flight cancellations. The Luis Muñóz Marin International Airport is constantly updating cancellations via their Twitter account (@AeropuertoSJU). The following itinerary changes have been reported:

The following airlines have cancelled all flights for today and will resume operations tomorrow:

  • Frontier 
  • Southwest 
  • Seaborne 
  • Air Antilles
  • Cape Air
  • Air Century

Attractions close down

At present, the following attractions, tours and/or sites have closed or have modified their operating hours:

  • El Yunque National Rainforest: Closed until Thursday. National Forest Service will notify opening of the park once it verifies post-storm conditions at www.fs.usda.gov/elyunque.
  • Toro Verde: Closed to the general public until Thursday.
  • National Park Service Historic Site, San Juan: The San Felipe del Morro and the San Cristobal grounds will be closed to the public. The parks are scheduled to resume normal working hours on Thursday.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company has also provided a series of phone numbers and contact details, should emergency evacuations take place, in order to keep guests safe.

Evacuation of property: contact 311 or the PRTC's interagency coordinators Lynette Pérez (lynette.perez@tourism.pr.gov) and Elsie Rosado (elsie.rosado@tourism.pr.gov) who are ready to liase between industry partners and government agencies to expedite assistance and information in the wake of the storm at Emergency Operation Headquarters (COE)  787-999-0103, 787-724,0124 Ext. 30000.

The following toll-free numbers are also available to contact the Puerto Rico Tourism Company:

1-800-866-7827 – LMM International Airport Information Center

1-800-981-7575 – Old San Juan Information Center

1-800-866-5829 – PRTC Headquarters

1-877-976-2400 – PRTC Headquarters

1-888-778-2872 – PRTC Headquarters

Island updates

Several other destinations are keeping a close eye on Dorian, and are expecting tropical storm conditions to develop.

Heavy rains are expected to occur over portions of the Bahamas, Florida, and elsewhere in the southeastern United States later this week and into early next week, the National Hurricane Center reports.

The risk of dangerous storm surge and hurricane-force winds is increasing in the central and northwestern Bahamas and along Florida's east coast, though the NHC states that it's too early to determine where these hazards will occur.

Saint Lucia has been cleared by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) after Dorian blew through yesterday.

The tourism board reports that hotels have no damages to plant and property. All guests are properly cared for and are safe within their respective resorts, and the airports have resumed normal operations with arriving and departing flights.

Air Canada, Air Transat, and WestJet's waivers for travel today (Aug. 28) to Samana (AZS), Puerto Plata (POP), and Punta Cana (PUJ) remain in place.

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