NASSAU, Bahamas — A potential tropical storm is brewing in the Atlantic and by late Friday could threaten areas of the Bahamas recently devastated by Hurricane Dorian, forecasters warned.
The weather system remained a tropical depression but the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. update that a tropical storm warning was in effect for the Northwestern Bahamas, excluding Andros Island.
The center said the system was expected to become a tropical storm on Saturday “with gradual intensification thereafter.”
“Global models insist on further development, and the reliable guidance suggests that the cyclone could even reach hurricane intensity” in about three days, the center said. “By then, the system is expected to be over the Atlantic waters well southeast of the coast of the Carolinas.”
The new storm was not expected to pack nearly the destructive power of Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane that killed at least 50 people and left widespread damage across the islands, but it could pose a challenge to rescuers, who were still searching for about 1,300 missing people as of Thursday.
Michael Pintard, a Marco City member of Parliament who had to be rescued from his home during Hurricane Dorian, said the potential storm was affecting relief efforts on Grand Bahama.
“The various warehouses and buildings that are housing various organizations and supplies are closing early today in expectation of a change in the weather,” he said Friday.
He said the time for residents to make repairs from Hurricane Dorian had also contracted.
“Those families that are already exposed now have to deal with a shortened period of time to change plywood, apply felt, shingles or whatever the particular cover was,” he said.
As the new weather system headed to the Bahamas, the authorities were preparing to open shelters and issued warnings urging residents to remain indoors, said Chrystal Glinton, deputy permanent secretary of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.
Mr. Pintard said he believed there was enough space in shelters for those who would need to be accommodated.
“Shelters would not be an issue, because the amount of people in shelters dramatically went down after the storm passed,” he said.
Trevor M. Basden, director of the Bahamas Department of Meteorology, said Friday that the authorities’ greatest concern was the potential for the new weather system to cause flooding.
Though not yet a tropical storm, the system, he said, was already producing “heavy, heavy rainfall.”
If the system moves in a northwesterly direction, as forecast by the National Hurricane Center, it could bring four to six inches of rain and isolated amounts of one to two inches in other areas, “which will definitely cause flooding,” he said.
The Bahamas is particularly susceptible to flooding, Mr. Basden said, because 80 percent of the island chain is 10 feet or less above mean sea level.
Lots of rain, combined with high winds, could also further compromise buildings that were partly damaged by Dorian and are still standing, possibly even knocking them down, Mr. Basden said. For those houses that are missing their roofs, “the walls are there to be blown down,” he said.
Hurricane Dorian damaged and destroyed nearly all structures in some settlements and towns in the Abacos, flattened entire neighborhoods and created vast debris fields.
The storm would be named Humberto if it becomes strong enough to be classified as the year’s ninth tropical storm.
The Atlantic Coast from Central Florida into South Carolina could see two to four inches of rain, forecasters said.
“The system could still bring tropical storm conditions to portions of the Florida east coast,” the hurricane center said. “Residents there should monitor the progress of this system and follow any advice given by local officials.”
Jacey Fortin and Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting from New York and Kirk Semple from the Bahamas.
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