TALLAHASSEE — Hurricane Dorian is now forecast to be a Category 4 storm — with sustained winds of around 130 mph — when it makes its expected landfall in the US on Monday, likely somewhere along Florida’s Atlantic coast, the National Hurricane Center says.
Dorian, having swept across the British and US Virgin Islands and whipped Puerto Rico with rain Wednesday, was moving northwest in the Atlantic Thursday morning with sustained winds of up to 85 mph.
Warm waters are expected to strengthen Dorian over the next few days. It’s on track to smack Grand Bahama island on Sunday and likely crash somewhere along the Florida or Georgia coasts around Monday morning.
Because it’s four days out, the range of potential landfall spots is vast — from the Florida Keys to southeast Georgia. And the center may pause at sea shortly before landfall — leaving its outer bands to drench much of Florida with lots of rain, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
“That’s … heavy rain potential,” Myers said. “This will not be a compact storm when it gets there.”
The affected areas in the US will feel tropical-storm force winds — at least 39 mph — as early as Saturday evening. And the center could pause before it runs into land — potentially whipping cities with “inches and inches of (rain) an hour,” Myers said.
“People have got to be ready before Sunday,” Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday.
Floridians are lining up for gas and food
Officials such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have urged people to have seven days of food and medicine available — and coastal residents already are stripping store shelves bare with Dorian in mind.
Plenty of people also were stocking up on fuel Thursday along Florida’s Atlantic coast. That included Arthur Sanders, who waited in a long line to get gas in Port St. Lucie.
“They were directing traffic and had part of the parking lot blocked off,” Sanders said.
In Port Orange, 40 miles northeast of Orlando, Brooke Koontz found shelves of bread and water nearly empty at a Walmart on Wednesday. There were also slim pickings among canned goods, toiletries and bananas, too.
Thankfully, soon after she arrived, employees brought out a pallet of water.
“It was gone in seconds,” she told CNN. “People were trying to race.”
Long lines and low supplies have been seen at several stores in the Miami area, CNN affiliate WSVN reported.
States of emergency have been declared in more than 25 Florida counties. Numerous officials are urging residents to get ready.
“Get water, get gas, get cash out of the ATMs,” West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said on CNN Thursday. “The more we hear about this storm, it sounds like a serious one.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp told residents of his state to keep their eyes on Dorian, too.
“You need to start preparing now if you’re in the coastal communities, for sure,” he told reporters in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Virgin Islands hardest hit Wednesday
Dorian has cleared the Caribbean Sea, but not before lashing the British and US Virgin Islands — first as a tropical storm and then as a Category 1 hurricane — on Wednesday.
Local authorities declared a state of emergency as trees toppled and power lines went down on the islands.
And while the storm was strong, the response was swift. Restoration processes began around 4 p.m. local time in the St. Thomas and St. John districts, and about 25,000 power outages in St. Croix were restored around 7 p.m. local time Wednesday, Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Director of Communications Jean Greaux told CNN.
“Within an hour of its passage, The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority mobilized crews to conduct a damage assessment. We immediately commenced restoration of service. Crews are now dispersed addressing isolated or pocket outages in a few locations,” Greaux said.
Hurricane advisories have been discontinued for the island, with winds overnight Wednesday dropping below 25 mph and rainfall scattering as the storm moves away, said CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford.
Puerto Rico spared predicted damage
Puerto Rico, still recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017, expected the storm to exacerbate the existing damage to infrastructure.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced had declared a state of emergency for the island and urged people to prepare for the storm. Schools across Puerto Rico were closed Wednesday.
One man died after falling from the roof of his house while cleaning a drain in preparation for the storm, Puerto Rico Public Safety Secretary Elmer Roman said.
Otherwise, Dorian did not have as devastating an impact on the island as feared.