(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Dorian is strengthening and taking aim at Florida, where residents and tourists are bracing for a possible Category 4 landfall on Monday morning.
Dorian is forecast to make landfall somewhere between Melbourne and West Palm Beach, but everyone on the east coast of Florida is urged to be prepared for life-threatening storm surge, devastating hurricane-force winds and over 1 foot of rain.
Dorian, now churning in the Atlantic, could become a Category 2 storm by Thursday evening or early Friday, and then a Category 3 on Friday afternoon or Friday night.
Dorian is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds on Monday morning.
If Dorian makes landfall on Florida’s east coast with winds of 125 mph, it would be the strongest hurricane to hit the east coast of Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Due to the storm’s “uncertain projected path,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the state’s 67 counties.
“All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts,” DeSantis said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
In Jacksonville, where water is already flying off the shelves, Mayor Lenny Curry said evacuations may be ordered, depending on which direction the storm moves.
The threat goes beyond Florida. Dorian may bring dangerous storm surge to coastal Georgia as well as rain and wind to inland Georgia and South Carolina, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday.
Dorian first tore through the Caribbean on Wednesday, blasting St. Thomas with powerful winds and more than 6 inches of rain.
President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Dorian missed Puerto Rico for the most part, where many residents are still reeling from the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Maria. The highest rainfall total on the island this week was 1 to 2 inches.
“Thank God we were not affected,” Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez said Wednesday night. “All the determinations made in the last days were a real life exercise.”
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