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Dorian Strengthens to Category 4 Hurricane Ahead of Possible Florida Landfall

Dorian's slow motion puts Florida "at an increasing risk of a prolonged, drawn-out event of strong winds, dangerous storm surge and heavy rainfall," according to the NHC

What to Know

  • Category 3 hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of 111 mph to 129 mph. Category 4 hurricanes have winds of 130 mph to 156 mph.
  • President Trump declared an emergency in Florida as it braces for the brunt of the hurricane.

Dorian strengthened to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds Friday night, as it continued on a course toward the Florida peninsula, forecasters said.

The National Hurricane Center's 8 p.m. advisory Friday had Dorian moving west-northwest at 10 mph, located about 375 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas and 545 miles east of West Palm Beach.

Dorian poses a "significant threat to Florida and the northwestern Bahamas," the NHC added.

Download the NBC 6 app for comprehensive coverage on Hurricane Dorian.

The NHC forecasts Dorian to be near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday, and near Florida on Monday, potentially remaining as a Category 4 hurricane.

"Additional strengthening is forecast, and Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week," the NHC said.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence. Hurricane watches are issued 48 hours before the expected first occurence of tropical-storm-force winds.

The NHC said earlier Friday it's concerned by Dorian's slow motion as it approaches Florida's coast.

The Hurricane Center said slow movement by the storm as it hits Florida would put parts of the state "at an increasing risk of a prolonged, drawn-out event of strong winds, dangerous storm surge and heavy rainfall."

The NHC said it is too soon to determine where landfall could occur. With the storm's track still unclear, no immediate mass evacuations were ordered.

The National Hurricane Center's projected track showed Dorian hitting around Palm Beach County, where Mar-a-Lago is situated, then moving inland over the Orlando area. But because of the difficulty of predicting a storm's course this far out, forecasters cautioned that practically all of Florida, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale, could be in harm's way.

Forecasters said Dorian could bring 4 inches to 8 inches of rain to the Southeastern coast, with a foot possible in places, and trigger life-threatening flash floods.

"If it makes landfall as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, that's a big deal," said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. "A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims."

President Donald Trump declared an emergency in Florida as it braces for the brunt of Hurricane Dorian.

Trump, whose Florida properties could sustain damage, has warned that Dorian could be an "absolute monster."

In issuing the emergency declaration, Trump has ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local efforts responding to Dorian. The storm is expected to strengthen into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 form and slam the Florida coast late Monday or early Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis DeSantis announced Thursday that he was extending a state of emergency to the entire state in anticipation of Dorian, clearing the way to bring in more fuel. He also activated 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard, with another 1,500 on standby.

"Due to Hurricane Dorian's uncertain projected path, I am expanding the state of emergency to include all 67 counties throughout Florida," DeSantis said in a statement. "All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts. As it increases strength, this storm has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant. Do not wait until it is too late to make a plan."

Earlier Thursday, President Trump canceled his planned trip to Poland due to Dorian, but said Florida is "going to be totally ready." He tweeted: "Be prepared and please follow State and Federal instructions, it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!"

As Dorian closed in, it played havoc with people's Labor Day weekend plans. Major airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without a fee. The major cruise lines began rerouting their ships. Disney World and the other big resorts in Orlando found themselves in the storm's projected path.

Along much of Florida's east coast, shoppers rushed to stock up on food and emergency supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores, and motorists topped off their tanks and filled gasoline cans. Some fuel shortages were reported in the Cape Canaveral area.

Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, went to a Publix supermarket in Miami only to find empty shelves in the water section and store employees unsure of when new cases would arrive.

"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?"

Tiffany Miranda of Miami Springs waited well over 30 minutes in line at BJ's Wholesale Club in Hialeah to buy hurricane supplies. Some 50 vehicles were bumper-to-bumper, waiting to fill up at the store's 12 gas pumps.

"You never know with these hurricanes. It could be good, it could be bad. You just have to be prepared," she said.

Officials in Miami-Dade and Broward held news conferences TFriday, urging residents to be prepared, with hurricane preparation plans in place for family and pets. Miami-Dade and Broward school officials said there would be classes on Friday, with no classes scheduled Monday for the Labor Day holiday. Updates on closures past Monday would be given if required.

"Residents should make sure that emergency equipment such as hurricane shutters and battery powered radios are in good working order," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.

Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport officials said they were closely monitoring the hurricane, but travelers should check with their airline.

Florida Power & Light said Thursday it activated its storm command center in Riviera Beach, which is the company's storm headquarters for the entire state. The utility said it already has 5,000 employees, contractors and partners signed up to help restore power in the aftermath of Dorian.

As for entertainment, Dorian was already having an effect statewide, as Florida State moved its season opener from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, and the Rolling Stones moved their South Florida concert up a day, from Saturday to Friday.

Dorian blew through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday.

Puerto Rico seemed to be spared any heavy wind and rain, a huge relief on an island where blue tarps still cover some 30,000 homes nearly two years after Hurricane Maria. The island's 3.2 million inhabitants also depend on an unstable power grid that remains prone to outages since it was destroyed by Maria.

Several hundred customers were without power across Puerto Rico, said Ángel Figueroa, president of a utility workers union. Police said an 80-year-old man in the town of Bayamón died after he fell trying to climb to his roof to clear it of debris ahead of the storm.

Some Federal Emergency Management Agency crews that responded to Puerto Rico told NBC 6 they were relocating to Florida. U.S. Geological Survey crews were also installing instruments that will track the hurricane's effects as it comes ashore.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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