Forecasters said Wednesday that they expected Hurricane Dorian to be a dangerous storm when it moves into the western Atlantic toward the U.S. southeastern coast.
Dorian strengthened from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday as it struck the U.S. Virgin Islands, clobbering the territory with fierce rain and powerful winds.
As of late Wednesday, Dorian was about 70 kilometers (43 miles) northwest of St. Thomas with top sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour).
President Donald Trump declared states of emergency on the islands and on Puerto Rico, which was under a hurricane watch.
Parts of Puerto Rico still have not recovered from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017, killing about 3,000 people.
"We learned our lesson quite well after Maria. We are going to be much better prepared," Puerto Rican Governor Wanda Vazquez said.
Trump assured Puerto Ricans that federal emergency officials were standing by to help, even as he blasted the island as "one of the most corrupt places on Earth ... their political system is broken and their politicians are either incompetent or corrupt," he tweeted.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz responded by telling Trump to "get out of the way" and let people on the ground do their jobs.
Dorian was expected to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands late Thursday and the Bahamas on Friday.
Much of the uneasiness about Dorian lay along the eastern and central coasts of Florida, where the storm may hit as early as this weekend as a Category 3.
Officials up and down the coast were already warning residents to be prepared with sandbags and plenty of food and bottled water.
"All Floridians on the East Coast should have seven days of supplies, prepare their homes and follow the track closely," Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted Wednesday.