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(Adds updated location, NHC projections, Barbados details)
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic braced for tropical storm Dorian on Tuesday as it churned west-northwest, with officials cautioning that it could approach hurricane-strength on Wednesday after blowing over Barbados.
"Slow strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Dorian is forecast to be near hurricane strength when it moves close to Puerto Rico and eastern Hispaniola," the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a report.
The storm's center is expected to pass near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, move near or over eastern Hispaniola Wednesday night and move north of Hispaniola on Thursday.
"Tropical storm conditions are expected and hurricane conditions are possible in Puerto Rico on Wednesday and in portions of the Dominican Republic Wednesday night and Thursday," said the NHC.
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced declared a state of emergency for the U.S. territory late on Monday in anticipation of the storm, the government said on Twitter.
There will be about 360 shelters open across the island, the governor said.
Barbados was hit by strong winds and intermittent showers, with periodic jolts of thunder and lightning, on Monday evening.
The Barbados Meteorological Services discontinued its tropical storm warning at 2 a.m. and the nation's international airport was reopened at 7 a.m.
"The threat of winds and heavy rains later this week, into this weekend, in the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Florida is increasing. Residents in these areas should monitor progress of Dorian and ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place," said the NHC.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
By late Tuesday morning, the storm was located about 60 miles (95 km) west-northwest of St. Lucia, blowing maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, according to the NHC.
St. Lucia discontinued a tropical storm warning for the island. (Reporting by Robert Edison Sandiford; additional reporting by Rich McKay; writing by Anthony Esposito and Rebekah F Ward; Editing by Michael Perry, Ed Osmond and Dan Grebler)