Hurricane Dorian is now an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, with winds of nearly 145 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday morning. The hurricane is expected to approach Florida on Monday, but an updated Saturday morning forecast no longer shows it making landfall in Florida, and forecasts it nearing the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. A hurricane warning is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, where it will likely arrive on Sunday. Both Florida and South Carolina have declared states of emergency. Read more about Hurricane Dorian: What spaghetti models can and can't tell us, information on flights, why storms are getting stronger and wetter, what hurricane categories mean, and tips for preparing. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Hurricane Dorian is gaining strength as it heads toward the Bahamas and Florida — its sustained wind speeds have reached roughly 145 mph, turning it into a Category 4 storm Friday night. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a hurricane warning for the northwestern Bahamas, where Dorian could hit with winds of 140 mph on Sunday. Forecasts suggest Dorian will then approach Florida's east coast, still as a Category 4 storm, on Monday. The storm's path has proved difficult to predict, but an updated forecast Saturday morning no longer shows it making landfall in Florida. Rather, it shows Dorian's path shifting north, drawing it closer to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, where "the risk of strong winds and life-threatening storm surge" is increasing for the middle of the week. Previous projections have shown Dorian making landfall near Fort Pierce, Florida. Meteorologists say the trajectory could still change, though, and that the updated Saturday morning forecast does not make a Florida landfall impossible. The Florida coast is in the "cone of uncertainty," meaning just a small shift could bring the storm even closer. The hurricane was 445 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida, as of Saturday morning.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) estimates the northwestern Bahamas will see 10 to 15 inches of rain this weekend, with up to 20 inches in some areas. The storm could bring 6 to 12 inches of rainfall to coastal areas of the southeastern US over the weekend, with some areas seeing up to 18 inches. This rain could "cause life-threatening flash floods," the NHC said. In the Bahamas, the NHC expects Dorian to bring hurricane-force winds, a "life-threatening storm surge" of 10 to 15 feet, and "large and destructive waves" on Sunday. No NHC hurricane watches or warnings were in effect yet for the US on Friday. Hurricane Dorian's landfall is difficult to predict Florida should expect tropical-storm-force winds starting late Sunday, the NHC said. "That's when we really need to wrap things when it comes to our preparedness," the NHC director, Ken Graham, said in a Facebook Live video on Friday. "With tropical-storm-force winds, it's dangerous to drive. It's dangerous to hold some plywood. It's dangerous to be on a ladder or your roof." Georgia and South Carolina could also experience these winds by Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
Determining where the hurricane could hit the coast has been made difficult by a cocktail of weather conditions in the Caribbean. Those other systems could pull the storm in a range of directions — NHC forecasters said on Thursday that there were "so many complex variables in play" that "the models have been having a difficult time nailing down the path of the hurricane." Even if the storm does turn north before reaching the coast, Graham said, Florida residents should still expect strong winds throughout the state. And the NHC warned on Friday evening that "life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early next week."
Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency across Florida. "Due to #Dorian's uncertain path, I am expanding the state of emergency to include all 67 counties throughout Florida," he tweeted on Thursday. "All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts." South Carolina Gov. Henry Mc Master also declared a state of emergency on Saturday, after Dorian's updated trajectory showed it coming closer than previously expected to the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. With a state of emergency in place, states are open to federal aid, and state agency workers can mobilize to prepare for the storm, along with state National Guards. Florida residents have been stockpiling supplies in anticipation of the storm's arrival. Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, told the AP that she found no water in a supermarket in Miami and didn't know where to go to escape the worst of Dorian's effects. "I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened," she said. "What's the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?"
The Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, just east of Orlando, is also preparing for Dorian's arrival. Teams at the space center and the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — both of which could fall in Dorian's path — were securing multimillion-dollar launch equipment before the hurricane makes landfall, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Dorian could be part of an above-average hurricane season
Puerto Rico escaped the worst of Dorian's wrath: The only confirmed death connected to the hurricane there so far was an 80-year-old man who fell from a ladder while preparing his home, the police told NBC News. Read more: Photos show the damage from Dorian in the Caribbean as the hurricane heads for Florida Dorian is the fourth named storm of this Atlantic hurricane season. In early August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revised its forecast for the hurricane season: It now says there's a 45% chance of above-average activity, with five to nine hurricanes, two to four of which could be major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above, with winds of at least 110 mph). On average, the Atlantic sees six hurricanes during a season, with three developing into major hurricanes. Hurricane season peaks in August through October and ends on November 30. However, these categories don't necessarily indicate the full destructive power of a storm, since they're based solely on wind speed. In Dorian's case, the storm is traveling slowly, meanings its effects are likely to be prolonged. "The slower you go, that means more rain," Graham said. "That means more time that you're going to have those winds." Slower, wetter storms are becoming more common as the planet warms. Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study in the journal Nature found.
Read more: The 14 most important ways to prepare for a hurricane Hurricane Dorian is set to wreak havoc on air travel — here's what you need to know about flights Spaghetti models of Hurricane Dorian show the storm heading for Florida — but you should not read them as forecasts Hurricane categories tell only part of the story — here's the real damage storms like Dorian can do Why hurricanes are getting stronger, slower, and wetter Join the conversation about this story »