Hurricane Dorian hurtled toward the United States and strengthened to a 115-mph, Category 3 “major” hurricane Friday ahead of its expected landfall Monday into Tuesday along Florida’s east coast, forecasters say.
Hurricane warnings were put in place in the northwestern Bahamas as Dorian approached the island nation. A direct hit in the Bahamas is likely on Sunday into Monday.
The storm was slowly turning west on Friday as it makes it way back toward land and is expected to strengthen in the coming days, the National Hurricane Center said. Dorian is forecast slam the southeastern United States as a possible Category 4 storm.
Forecasters say Dorian will likely slow down considerably as it approaches Florida, allowing for heavy rainfall, dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge to linger.
“Dorian is likely to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula through the weekend,” the hurricane center said.
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No evacuations were ordered yet, but Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded state of emergency declarations throughout all of Florida’s 67 counties and warned Floridians to have a hurricane plan in place. President Donald Trump on Friday also declared a state of emergency to facilitate federal recovery efforts for the storm’s potential destruction.
Trump, who canceled a planned trip to Poland, called the storm “an absolute monster” and compared Dorian to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992.
“All indications are it’s going to hit very hard and it’s going to be very big,” Trump said in a video he tweeted Thursday.
Shoppers were lining up to buy supplies and water as waits at gas stations grew. Some scattered fuel shortages were reported Friday. Sandbags were also being distributed by local governments. National guard troops are expected to be deployed in the comings days, too.
At 5 p.m. Friday, the storm was 595 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, and was moving west-northwest at 9 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
“On this track, Dorian should move over the Atlantic well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas today, approach the northwestern Bahamas Saturday, and move near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday,” the Hurricane Center said Friday morning.
The hurricane’s exact path once it hits the U.S. remains uncertain, but the storm could make landfall Monday or early Tuesday along southeastern Florida. Models of the path place it anywhere between the Keys and southern Georgia.
Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger, said most models show it hitting between Vero Beach and Boca Raton overnight Monday into early Tuesday. The models show Dorian then moving up the Atlantic coast before spinning out to sea later next week.
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The Southeast was forecast to be drenched in half a foot to a foot of rain, with isolated patches up to 15 inches. Storm surge is also expected, though forecasters can’t say for sure where the hardest hit areas will be.
“You’re looking at a potentially significant water event throughout portions of the state,” DeSantis told reporters Friday.
Tropical storm conditions with high-powered winds could arrive as early as Saturday night.
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In the Bahamas, a direct hit was likely Sunday into Monday. Storm surge there could reach as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels with onshore winds.
Large, destructive waves are also likely, the hurricane center says.
Major cruise lines began rerouting ships and airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without an extra charge.
Florida Power and Light, which operates more than 48,000 miles of overhead power lines, activated its emergency response plan and will have nearly 13,000 employees on hand to restore power after the storm, the utility said in a news release Friday. It was also working with utilities across the country to secure additional resources and position crew before the storm hits.
Krista Anderson, of West Palm Beach, wasn’t taking any chances also said she’s not going all out to prepare for the storm — at least not until the storm’s track is clearer.
“I just filled up my car with gas and will fill the bathtub with water,” she said, “but I’m not going to put up hurricane shutters until I’m sure we’re getting a direct hit. They’re a pain.”
Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, told the Associated Press that she went to a Publix supermarket in Miami only to find empty shelves in the water section.
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“I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened,” she told the news agency. “What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?”
Lauren Harvey, 51, in Vero Beach, told the AP this was her first hurricane alone in Florida and that she felt unprepared.
“I just moved here, so I’m lost,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Earlier in the week, Dorian pushed past the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin and British Islands, sparring the area from its worst effects. Some of the islands lost power and trees were knocked down, but local officials said they avoided total disaster. Parts of Puerto Rico’s eastern and southern coasts saw some heavy flooding.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; The Associated Press. Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller
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