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Tropical storm Isaac won't be a hurricane before Monday (+video)

Tropical storm Isaac is gaining strength, but isn't organized enough to become a hurricane before Monday. Isaac will hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic today, and Cuba on Friday.

By Danica CotoAssociated Press / August 24, 2012

A satellite photo of Tropical Storm Isaac taken at 7:24 am Friday, shows the storm located about 175 miles south-southwest of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic. Winds have strengthened to 50 m.p.h.

National Hurricane Center

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened slightly as it spun toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but seemed unlikely to gain enough steam early Friday to strike the island of Hispaniola as a hurricane.

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The storm's failure to gain the kind of strength in the Caribbean that forecasters initially projected made it more likely that Isaac won't become a hurricane until it enters the Gulf of Mexico, said Eric Blake, a forecaster with U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"We think it could become a hurricane on Monday," Blake said late Thursday. "It would be somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico."

At 8 a.m. the National Hurricane Center reported that the hurricane hunter aircraft reports that Isaac is a little stronger, with sustained winds reaching 50 m.p.h. The center of Isaac will move near or over the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) today...And move near or over southeastern Cuba on Saturday.

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The latest five-day forecast showed the storm's path shifting to the west, possibly making landfall near the Alabama-Mississippi border, Blake said. But he said it was "too early to know" the exact course and stressed that Florida's Gulf Coast, including Tampa, the site of next week's Republican National Convention, was still in the forecast cone.

The storm dumped heavy rain Thursday across eastern and southern Puerto Rico and whipped up waves as high as 10 feet (3 meters) in the Caribbean as it churned across the region.

Early Friday, Isaac was centered about 165 miles (265 kilometers) south of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph). It was moving west near 15 mph (24 kph), according to the hurricane center.

In flood-prone Haiti, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers, to tape their windows, and to stay calm, saying "panic creates more problems."

Lamothe and other Haitian officials said the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.

But among many Haitians, the notion of disaster preparedness in a country where most people get by on about $2 a day was met with a shrug.

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