PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Rain and wind gusts from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Emily struck Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the storm gathered strength on a track that threatened the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where 630,000 people are still without shelter after last year's earthquake.
Puerto Rico was spared major damage, and forecasters said Emily was headed next to the more vulnerable island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rains from the front of the storm were expected to hit the island in force this afternoon.
"The biggest threat to lives is probably the flooding," said John Dlugoenski, senior meteorologist with Accuweather.com.
A slow-moving storm that triggered mudslides and floods in Haiti killed at least 28 people in June.
On Puerto Rico, there were no reports of major damage or injuries. Emily had been expected to bring up to 6 inches of rain to the island.
Gov. Luis Fortuno declared a state of emergency and most government offices were closed. Ahead of the storm, people cleared water and other emergency supplies from store shelves, and tourists fled the small Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm, which had been almost stationary in the morning, was on a west track at 14 mph by night. It had maximum winds of 50 mph.
By Friday, Emily could begin to affect South Florida with wind and rain, though the track remains uncertain, hurricane center forecasters said.