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Ponce, Puerto Rico (CNN) - Tropical storm Dorian is expected to make landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, bringing dangerous rains to the island that is still reeling from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
MIRA: How is Puerto Rico preparing for the Dorian storm?
Dorian is currently in the Caribbean Sea, just west of Guadalupe and Montserrat, and is expected to arrive in Puerto Rico with a force close to that of a hurricane at noon or afternoon, said CNN meteorologist Haley Brink. But as it progresses, Dorian could bring a hurricane to Florida for Labor Day weekend.
FOLLOW THE STORM
The rain that Dorian is expected to bring can cause sudden life-threatening floods, the National Hurricane Center said. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said the storm could easily damage the already fragile infrastructure on the island where 2,975 people died from Hurricane Maria just two years ago.
Puerto Rico is preparing for impact
"There is already so much damage to the ground (by Maria) that it won't take much to cause a significant amount of damage, especially flooding," Myers said.
Early Wednesday morning, the storm was approximately 386 kilometers southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The mayor of Ponce, María “Mayita” Meléndez, told CNN that there are still people with tarpaulins on their homes in the city, which she said was beaten with 1,000 million in damages from Maria.
MIRA: Governor of Puerto Rico before Dorian: "We are better prepared"
A resident, Lucy Beascochea, said the sheet metal roof over her house still has holes, which means that every time it rains, water drips. He told CNN that he is nervous about the approaching storm.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, declared a state of emergency for the island on Monday and urged people to prepare for the storm.
"For citizens who don't have safe roofs yet, we will have shelters ready," Vazquez said on Twitter.
Schools throughout Puerto Rico are closed on Wednesday.
There are about 360 shelters available across the island for a capacity of 48,500 people, the government's official Twitter account said on Monday. And about 70 hospitals were prepared to handle emergencies, authorities said.
"Fortunately, I've been preparing since May," said Krystle Rivera, whose family has been storing water, canned food and gas in anticipation of hurricane season.
Heavy rains and strong winds
Although not yet a hurricane, tropical storm Dorian is expected to bring severe conditions to the Caribbean.
Two-thirds of Puerto Rico will likely receive winds with tropical storm force, said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. Until the early hours of Wednesday, Dorian had sustained winds of 96 kilometers per hour.
From Wednesday to Thursday, Puerto Rico could receive 4 to 20.3 centimeters of rain, and the US Virgin Islands. The US, Haiti and the Dominican Republic could receive up to 10.2 centimeters, according to the hurricane center.
Puerto Rico and the east of the Dominican Republic are under tropical storm warning, and Puerto Rico is under hurricane surveillance, the hurricane center said Tuesday night.
LOOK: Dorian could arrive in Florida later this weekend
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours, and a hurricane alert means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.
After passing Puerto Rico, Dorian is forecast to move near or east of Hispaniola on Thursday and move north, the hurricane center said.
At the end of the week, what is left of Dorian is expected to move to the Bahamas and possibly to the southeastern parts of the United States.
Florida expects a hurricane
By Friday night, the storm is forecast to strengthen and become a category 1 hurricane as it continues east of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It will then be strengthened to a category 2 on Sunday morning before it lands on the east coast of Florida or Georgia.
That means that Florida could have a hurricane during Labor Day weekend.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis urged residents to begin preparing for Dorian to come his way.
“According to the current trajectory of tropical storm Dorian, all residents of the East Coast must prepare for impacts, including high winds, heavy rains and floods. Make sure you have your supplies ready and follow @FLSERT [Florida Emergency Management Division] and local media for the latest updates on the forecast, ”said DeSantis.
But that may not mean that it is time to cancel travel plans: "It is still too early to forecast impacts," said CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
CNN Omar Jimenez reported from Puerto Rico. Madeline Holcombe and Christina Maxouris wrote from Atlanta. Jason Hanna, Meg Wagner and Brandon Miller contributed to this report.