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Hurricane Dorian projected to become a major hurricane as it churns toward Florida

Strengthening is forecast over the next few days, and Dorian could be become a Category 3 storm on Friday.
The projected path of Hurricane Dorian as of 5 a.m. Thursday. [National Hurricane Center]
Published Aug. 29
Updated Aug. 29

UPDATED STORY: Hurricane Dorian projected to reach Category 4 status as it hits Florida

Hurricane Dorian’s track has shifted slightly south, and it is projected to approach Category 4 strength as it targets Florida early next week, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) on Friday. A Category 3 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 111 to 129 miles per hour.

While forecast models continue to differ on the system’s track, meteorologists hope to have a resolution by Friday.

No watches or warnings are currently in effect for land areas affected by Dorian, so the National Hurricane Center did not issue an 8 a.m. advisory. The next update will come at 11 a.m.

As of 5 a.m. Thursday, Dorian’s center was located about 150 miles north-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico and about 425 miles east-southeast of the southeastern Bahamas. It was packing 85 mph sustained winds, with hurricane-force winds stretching 15 miles from its center and tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 90 miles.

Dorian had slowed slightly, traveling northwest at 13 miles per hour, motion expected to continue through Friday. It should begin to move west-northwest Friday night and through the weekend.

The system is forecast to travel over the Atlantic Ocean east of the southeastern and central Bahamas today and on Friday, and approach the northwestern Bahamas on Saturday.

Flash flooding is a concern, as Dorian is expected to drop 4 to 8 inches of rain and as much as 12 inches on isolated parts of the Bahamas and coastal sections of the southeast United States. Swells capable of creating life-threatening surf and rip currents are likely to begin affecting the southeastern U.S. during the next few days.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as the National Hurricane Center’s forecasts showed Dorian increasing in strength and intensity as its path toward Florida this weekend grew more certain.

“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely," DeSantis said in a statement. “Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster.”

Dorian has been growing in strength daily since it became a tropical storm this past weekend. But for the the next three days it it has nothing but the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean between it and the Florida coastline. Forecasters believe that could allow Dorian to quickly strengthen from a Category 1 to a Category 3 hurricane.

Across the state, warning bells started sounding as emergency officials warned Floridians to start getting ready, assembling supplies and putting together an action plan ― if they didn’t already have one ready to go.

“Yesterday would have been better," Pinellas County spokeswoman Ashley J. Johnson said. “But today is the time to get prepared.”

Emergency officials warned Floridians that they can no longer wait to prepare.

“All indications are that by this Labor Day weekend, a powerful hurricane will be near the Florida or southeastern coast of the United States,” forecasters from the hurricane center said. “Now is the time to begin thinking about what kinds of preparations you might need to make over the next couple of days."

Despite predictions, forecasters highlighted how hard it is to predict a powerful storm’s behavior, especially over 48 hours in advance.

“The risk of dangerous storm surge and hurricane-force winds is increasing in the central and northwestern Bahamas and along the Florida east coast, although it is too soon to determine where these hazards will occur,” the hurricane center said. “Residents in these areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, not focus on the exact forecast track of Dorian’s center.”

2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

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What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael

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