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Gabrielle downgraded to tropical depression

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
September 5, 2013 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Gabrielle's maximum sustained winds drop to 35 mph
  • NEW: The storm could drop up to 8 inches of rain in parts of Puerto Rico
  • NEW: Puerto Rico drops its watches and warnings for Gabrielle

(CNN) -- Tropical Storm Gabrielle was downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday morning, but still was expected to drop a fair amount of rain on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, forecasters said.

Gabrielle is expected to dump up to 4 inches of rain in parts of Puerto Rico and up to 8 inches in other places, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"These rains could cause dangerous flash floods and mudslides over mountainous terrain," the center said.

The system, centered late Thursday morning about 80 miles south-southeast of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, was expected to move over the Dominican Republic on Thursday night .

Its maximum sustained winds had dropped to 35 mph by late Thursday morning, below the 39 mph threshold for a tropical storm.

Puerto Rico dropped its watches and warnings for the storm Thursday morning, and the Dominican Republic changed a tropical strorm warning to a tropical storm watch from Cabo Engano to Cabo Frances Viejo.

One of the last times the region was hit with devastating rains was in October, when Hurricane Sandy roared through the Caribbean leaving at least 51 dead. That figure includes deaths in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

CNN's Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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