(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Dorian strengthened Friday afternoon to a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds as Floridians brace for the extremely dangerous storm to hit.
Dorian is forecast to make landfall along Florida’s east coast overnight into Tuesday as a Category 4 storm.
Forecast to approach Florida with winds of 140 mph, Dorian, should it make landfall at those wind speeds, would become just the ninth hurricane to do so, dating back to 1851.
Dorian could be the biggest hurricane to hit the Miami area since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The latest forecast shows Dorian making landfall Monday night into Tuesday morning between Vero Beach and Fort Lauderdale, but different models show the hurricane taking different paths after landfall.
Most models are predicting Dorian will make a sharp turn north.
If Dorian continues on that track, Orlando and Jacksonville may see heavy rain, gusty winds and significant flooding. Dorian would then move north to coastal Georgia and South Carolina, where rain, storm surge and flooding is a threat.
Other models forecast a path across Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico and then by the Panhandle.
Dorian is a relatively small hurricane, leaving a lot of uncertainly — any change in the atmosphere can move the storm in a different direction or change its speed.
“No matter where the hurricane makes landfall, it could impact the majority of Florida,” Peter Gaynor, acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told “Good Morning America” on Friday.
By Saturday, Dorian is likely to reach a Category 4 with winds of 130 mph.
“The clock is ticking and now is the time for residents of Florida, south Georgia to make preparations,” Gaynor said. “Don’t take this storm lightly.”
President Donald Trump on Friday approved an emergency declaration for Florida, where a state of emergency was issued in every county.
Residents on Florida’s east coast are waiting in massive lines to stock up on food, water and gas, and scrambling to board up their homes and businesses. The University of Florida is closing its campus and canceling classes for Tuesday.
“We urge all Floridians to have seven days’ worth of food, medicine and water,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday. “This is potentially a multi-day event where it’ll churn slowly across the state.”
“If you’re in an area that has an impact from this storm, you should assume you’re gonna lose power,” he said. “If you’re in an area that flooded during Hurricane Irma [in Sept. 2017] and you’re impacted by this, you should assume that you’re gonna see flooding again after this storm. So be prepared.”
The biggest threat will be storm surges — ocean water pushed on shore by hurricane winds. One to 2 feet of rain is forecast for the east coast of Florida, and flash flooding is expected.
“You will see evacuations,” the governor said. “If you’re in an evacuation zone and you’re ordered to evacuate, please do so.”
By Monday morning, the center of the storm will be passing over Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, with winds possibly close to 140 mph — a Category 4 hurricane.
Storm surge in the Bahamas could reach up to 15 feet and many islands are already under evacuation orders.
“Let me be extremely clear, those who refuse to evacuate, place themselves in great danger from this very powerful and potentially life-threatening hurricane,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Friday. “Do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane.”
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