SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A compact Hurricane Beryl, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, was on a path early Saturday that would carry it over the Lesser Antilles at the end of the weekend and into the eastern Caribbean, bringing a new threat to islands still rebuilding from last year's storms.
A hurricane watch was issued for Dominica, which was battered by Hurricane Maria in September as a Category 5 storm. The island's meteorological service said weather conditions would start deteriorating Saturday night and warned of six to 12 inches of rain. A tropical storm watch was issued for the French Caribbean territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Barts as well as the islands of Barbados and St. Lucia. Deeper into the Caribbean, a state of emergency was declared in Puerto Rico, where Maria caused more than an estimate $100 billion in damage.
Beryl formed Friday and was a Category 1 storm late in the day. At 8 a.m. Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Beryl had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). It was centered 780 miles (1260 kilometers) east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at 14 mph (22 kph).
The hurricane became less organized on Saturday morning and forecasters said it soon could be downgraded to a tropical storm.
People in the Caribbean, however, were taking no chances. Long lines were reported outside grocery stores on the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico and elsewhere as people bought food and water as a preventive measure. Among those stocking up was Sandra Whitcher, an owner of Coffeeriver Cottages in Dominica.
"We're pretty prepared," she said in a phone interview, adding that crews fortified the roofs on all seven cottages that survived Hurricane Maria. "Just because they go through one hurricane doesn't mean they will go through a second one."
Forecasters said Beryl would weaken further after entering the Caribbean late Sunday or early Monday. It was expected to pass about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Puerto Rico on Monday, but forecasters warned the storm-wracked U.S. territory could see up to 30 mph winds and heavy rains that could cause flooding and mudslides.
Meteorologist Odalys Martinez said in a phone interview that conditions would deteriorate late Sunday, with up to 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) of rain possible.
"There is a lot of uncertainty," she said, adding that the storm's track and strength could change in the next 24 hours.
Beryl is considered a small storm, with hurricane force winds extending out about 10 miles (20 kilometers) from its center. Forecasters said the storm probably would dissipate once it moved south of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency for the island and suspended work for Monday.
Rossello told reporters the island would probably experience power outages, given that its electricity grid has become more vulnerable since Hurricane Maria, which caused damage estimated at more than $100 billion. He said, however, that the recovery should be quicker since there are more power restoration crews and more equipment on the island now.
The governor urged people without sturdy roofs to move to one of the 424 shelters that the government planned to open across the island. He recently noted that some 60,000 people still have only tarps for roofs.
"There are a lot of Puerto Ricans who are in a vulnerable position," Rossello said. "We are keeping an eye on this minute by minute. It is not the moment to panic, but it's the moment to prepare."
Puerto Rico Health Secretary Rafael Rodriguez urged all those with serious health conditions, including diabetics, to seek shelter at health facilities, which have generators.
Meanwhile, a tropical depression formed in the Atlantic well off the North Carolina coast, but forecasters said it wasn't expected to pose any threat to land. The hurricane center said it would likely become a tropical storm Saturday and continue strengthening over the next few days while remaining far offshore.
At 11 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 195 miles (315 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph (48 kph). It was moving north-northwest at 6 mph (9 kph).