Tropical Storm Fay has formed over the Dominican Republic and was expected to barrel west toward Cuba over the weekend.
The center of the storm was west of Santo Domingo on Friday night, and had maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph with higher gusts. It was moving west at about 14 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm was expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain in the Dominican Republic, but it was not expected to change in strength while moving across the country.
But forecasters say the storm could strengthen significantly when it emerges from Cuba's north coast. They said it has a 30 percent chance of becoming a hurricane then and that it could pass near or over the Florida Keys and the west coast of Florida. It is the sixth storm to form in the Atlantic this year.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for parts of Haiti, the Bahamas, Cuba and the Turks and Caicos islands.
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The Dominican government issued a tropical storm warning for the country's entire north coast and parts of the south coast. The storm knocked out power across the capital of Santo Domingo, and loud claps of thunder set off car alarms on Friday afternoon.
Several of the 11 heads of state who had not arrived for the president's inauguration today were still expected to do so late Friday. However, airport officials canceled two American Eagle flights from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Santo Domingo and diverted a Jet Blue flight from New York to Santiago, a city in the country's center. Officials also diverted three international flights from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo, said Yolanda Manan, spokeswoman for the civil aviation authority.
Today's agenda for President Leonel Fernandez's third inauguration has not changed, his press office said Friday.
Many Dominicans were caught off-guard as the storm approached, since it was still a tropical wave by late Thursday.
Jean Carlos Pena said he was surprised when he left to make a delivery Friday afternoon and was greeted by heavy rain. The 18-year-old, who works at a repair shop in the capital, thought the rain would last only about 10 minutes.