Tropical Storm Dorian strengthened to a hurricane Wednesday afternoon as it threatened the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, with forecasters predicting it could become a Category 3 hurricane by the time it hits Florida over the weekend.
US President Donald Trump has been criticizing Puerto Rico. 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 spiraling death toll.
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. Puerto Rico could see flash floods, and heavy rains are expected in the Bahamas and Florida. Late on Tuesday, President Trump approved an emergency declaration authorizing 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”.
Tropical Storm Dorian strengthened to a hurricane Wednesday afternoon as it threatened the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, with forecasters predicting it could become a Category 3 hurricane by the time it hits Florida over the weekend. Dorian became a hurricane near the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center. There were multiple observations of hurricane-force winds in St. Thomas, according to the hurricane center.
The storm could still prove a major test of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid two years after Hurricane Maria wiped out power on the entire island and thousands died in the aftermath of the storm. In some areas, power was only fully restored a year later. The island was already seeing heavy rain Wednesday as conditions worsened. The worst was expected from Wednesday afternoon to early Thursday before the storm pulls away. The eastern part of the island and the Virgin Islands were expected to get 4 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated areas seeing as much as 10 inches.
Late Tuesday, President Donald Trump approved a state of emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, allowing federal authorities to coordinate aid efforts. But this morning, the president had this message for the U.S. territory: “Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt,” he tweeted. “Congress approved Billions of Dollars last time, more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!”
Trump’s tweet contained multiple falsehoods. While Congress has allocated $42.5bn for disaster relief for Puerto Rico, the island had received less than $14bn through May, according to federal data. And in any case Trump’s headline amount of $92bn would not qualify the Maria relief package as “an all-time record” for the costliest tropical cyclones, according to the federal government’s own figures. Spending on recovery for Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana in the same storm season as Maria, has so far cost $125bn.
Trump then said he was “the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!” Since Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled with political turbulence leading to the recent departure of the governor, Ricardo Rosselló. Earlier this month, the territory’s supreme court overturned the swearing-in of Rosselló’s successor, Pedro Pierluisi, and the former justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez, became governor.