Once powerful Hurricane Danny continued to weaken, dropping to tropical storm strength late Saturday — but remaining on a track that could steer it toward South Florida by late next week.
Forecasters said the storm — with maximum winds dropping to 65 mph — was expected to continue weakening over at least the next two days.
"By Thursday, it is expected to be a depression," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria.
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The five-day track shows that Danny, an unusually small storm, could be anywhere between Cuba and the Bahamas by Thursday afternoon. South Florida was poised to fall in the five-day forecast cone by Sunday morning.
That could force locals to shift into a storm-readiness mode that hasn't been necessary in years. There have been some close calls but nine seasons have passed without a major hurricane striking the U.S. While Danny is expected to have lost most of its power by Thursday, forecasters caution that intensity is still notoriously difficult to predict.
Steven Ippoliti, a forecaster with National Weather Service in Miami said that even though it's not an immediate threat to South Florida, the storm should still be taken seriously.
"During tropical season we always encourage people to have an action plan already made. Sometimes its heard to get supplies last-minute," he said Saturday. "Sometimes viewers tend to look at the forecast track online, although that's not necessarily the track it will take, which is why we have the predicted cone."
Saturday evening, the storm was 520 miles east of the Leeward Islands moving toward the west-northwest at about 14 mph. While weaker, the storm had picked up speed just slightly from its track earlier Saturday. Danny was expected to be near the Leeward Islands by Sunday night or Monday morning and near Puerto Rico and Hispaniola late Monday and Tuesday.
A tropical storm watch was in effect late Saturday for islands including Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin. That means tropical storm conditions are possible in those areas within 48 hours.
The National Hurricane Center said watches or warnings may be required for the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
Seaborne Airlines—based in San Juan, Puerto Rico— is offering travelers flying between Aug. 22 and Aug. 26 the chance to reschedule their plans or get refunds.
"If your flight is canceled or significantly delayed, you are entitled to a refund. Even if your flight is not canceled, you may make a one-time change to your ticket without any change fees or bookings fees if you are scheduled to travel," said spokesperson Sandra Colon in a press release Friday.
Some islands, particularly Puerto Rico, badly need rain to make up for droughts. But even without ultra-strong winds, Danny could remain a threat to some islands, particularly in places such as Haiti, where storms have repeatedly unleashed fatal mudslides.
"We are all on very high alerts," said Joanne Persad of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency based in Barbados Friday, adding that emergency officials are preparing for the possibility of flash floods and mudslides.
Forecasters have kept close eye on Danny, saying that it is one of the smaller, compact storms, making it harder to predict. Smaller storms tend to intensify and weaken rapidly, sometimes faster than models can calculate.