Officials in the Bahamas issued a hurricane warning around 5 p.m. Friday for the northwestern Bahamas as Hurricane Dorian continued its westward motion as a Category 3.
The Bahamas warning includes Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.
Dorian sustained wind speeds of about 115 mph with higher gusts by 5 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. Its core is expected to be near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday, and be near the Florida east coast late Monday.
The slowing storm is now expected to make landfall just north of Palm Beach, home to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump said the storm could be an “absolute monster” when it hits.
If that isn’t enough, a tropical wave has been spotted moving westward off the coast of Africa. Some development is possible early next week over the eastern and central tropical Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center, which gives it a 30-percent chance of developing over the next five days.
Dorian was about 420 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas and 595 miles east of west Palm Beach Friday at 5 p.m. Current projections have it passing those islands before turning west and striking the northwest Bahamas as a major hurricane late in the weekend. A hurricane watch is in effect for the northwest Bahamas.
“It’s slowed down considerably,” National Weather Service forecaster John McMichael said. “At this point in time, they’re expecting it to be a category 4 when it reaches the east coast of Florida.”
Stores across Florida have already reported running out of water and other popular hurricane items like bread and generators, though Publix representatives said the chain is hurrying to restock water. Attorney General Ashley Moody activated the state’s price gouging hotline Friday for consumers to report illegal price hikes of necessary commodities.
Dorian has already been called an “extremely dangerous” Category 2 storm by the Hurricane Center and was just shy of Category 3 strength Friday. The storm has been slowing, giving it more time to strengthen in the Atlantic. It’s going to hit the warm waters of the Gulf Stream soon, forecasters said, which will give it even more fuel to grow to a Category 4 storm as it continues its fearsome crawl to the Sunshine State, bringing winds over 130 mph.
“The risk of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast has increased,” the Hurricane Center wrote Friday, “although it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge will occur.”
The storm would also bring “devastating” winds, the Hurricane Center said.
Dorian’s cone of uncertainty still includes the entire state, prompting Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency in all 67 Florida counties.
Speaking Friday morning at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, DeSantis said the storm “could be a multi-day event,” expected to bring heavy rainfall and flooding to much of the peninsula.
“The bad news of this storm going slower is that it could have some negative impacts before it reaches landfall,” he said. “You have time to prepare if you have not done so.”
A ridge of high pressure above Florida has been giving forecasting models a difficult time, increasing Dorian’s uncertainty, McMichael said. It won’t be until the storm is within 48 hours of landfall that a more certain path will be determined.
Some models show Dorian riding up the east coast because of a weak ridge, while others have the storm pushing further inland. on a stronger ridge.
McMichael said there’s somewhat of a consensus among major models that show a stronger ride holding, meaning it’d take a longer time to turn north once it makes landfall and more effects inland and to the west coast.
The Tampa Bay area could see tropical storm-force winds by Monday and heavy rains heading into Tuesday that could dump more than a foot of rain on a swath of the state already pushed to the brink of what it can handle. The Weather Service said flooding rain, wind, surge, and tornadoes could last 2 days or more.
“If it does stay slow and it does move inland, there’s gonna be a lot of flooding going on,” McMichael said. “It could happen earlier if the storm grows in size.”
2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
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