Hurricane Dorian: As Dangerous as a Category 4
Hurricane Dorian strengthened overnight and is expected to slam into Florida as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds. The projected path has it making landfall in South Florida, but then driving right up through Central Florida and over downtown Orlando.
The expected arrival of the storm is now on the tail end of Labor Day weekend as its forward speed has slowed, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said this morning that is good and bad news.
“Floridians need to be prepared,” DeSantis said. “The bad news of the storm going slower is that that could potentially have some negative impacts once it reaches landfall, but you do have time before it reaches to prepare if you have not done so.”
DeSantis said local officials will decide Friday about whether to order voluntary or mandatory evacuations. So far, 2,000 Florida National Guard members have been activated to help prepare for the storm, with 4,000 expected to be activated by Saturday.
At 11 a.m. Friday, Hurricane Dorian had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and was located about 480 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas and 660 miles east of West Palm Beach. It was moving to the northwest at 10 mph, slowing down in forward speed even more today, which pushed its Florida landfall even farther into next week. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.
“Dorian will remain an extremely dangerous, major hurricane as it moves through the Northwestern Bahamas and approaches Florida early next week,” said WOFL-Fox 35 meteorologist Kristin Giannas. “The latest track shows that Dorian will slow down considerably before and after landfall near West Palm Beach. It’s increasingly likely that the threat for life-threatening storm surge, high winds and heavy rain will last more than a couple days.”
The current path has the storm making landfall north of West Palm Beach Tuesday morning as a dangerously strong Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and gusts up to 160 mph. The storm would then move inland and slowly make its way toward Central Florida -- now projected to move right over downtown Orlando by Wednesday morning as a Category 1 storm with winds of 75 mph and gusts up to 90 mph.
"Dorian is growing stronger, now a Category 2 storm but, will intensify later today into a Category 3 with winds over 115 mph,” said WOFL-Fox 35 meteorologist Jayme King. "Central Floridians need to take this storm seriously and prepare for threats coming our way.”
At 140 mph, it would be the strongest storm to hit Florida’s east coast since Hurricane Andrew tore through South Florida in August 1992, which caused more than $25 billion in damages and was blamed for 44 deaths.
Because of the Hurricane Dorian’s slow motion, there will be greater impact from wind and rain for South and Central Florida.
“One of the biggest concerns with a slow moving hurricane like Dorian is that the dangerous weather will last a few days - that’s strong winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge," said Fox 35 meteorologist Kristin Giannas.
Added King, “Dorian looks to produce a lot of rain for Central Florida, possibly around 2 feet in some locations."
President Donald Trump warned it could be an “absolute monster.”
“All indications are it’s going to hit very hard and it’s going to be very big,” Trump said in a video he tweeted Thursday evening, comparing Dorian to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992.
Because the storm is still days away, the National Hurricane Center cautioned that its path might change.
“Dorian will likely slow down considerably as it approaches the Florida peninsula,” forecasters said. “There is more spread among the deterministic models and their ensemble members during that time, with disagreement on exactly when and where Dorian will turn northwestward and northward on days 4 and 5.”
Gov. DeSantis declared a state of emergency, clearing the way to bring in more fuel and call out the National Guard if necessary.
On Friday, Seminole County schools announced they would be closed Tuesday. UCF had already canceled Friday afternoon classes as well as classes on Tuesday, as has Rollins College.
Central Floridians have already been making preparations, flooding local stores in search of bottled water, generators and other supplies that were already in high demand.
Home Depot has sent more than 160 truckloads of products to stores in Florida so far, company spokesperson Christina Cornell said.Hurricane Dorian Preparedness: Tips to get you ready before the storm
While flavored waters and sports drinks remained available Thursday at the Walmart Supercenter at John Young Parkway and Princeton Street in Orlando, shelves of water were emptied out. Some shelves of canned goods had also thinned.
“We got batteries,” said 31-year-old Christopher Hudon, an Orlando attorney. “Water has been cleaned like crows from the shelves. There’s literally no water. There’s only flavored water left.”
The state has ordered an additional 200,000 gallons of water to bring the total to more than 1 million gallons. It pre-deployed 860,000 bottles of water to preparing counties.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has activated the state’s price gouging hotline, giving residents a way to report businesses violating the law by charging too much for lodging and goods during Hurricane Dorian. Moody said gouging could be reported by (866) 966-7226 or online at myfloridalegal.com
The threat of winds in Orlando has prompted companies Lime and HOPR to begin removing their fleets of bicycles that are strewn across the city.
The path of the storm has coastal concerns making moves including Port Canaveral on alert and cruise lines shifting ships and changing itineraries. Also, major airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without a fee.
Coastal areas in the Southeast could get 6 to 12 inches of rain, with 15 inches in some places, triggering life-threatening flash floods, the hurricane center said.
Also imperiled were the Bahamas, with Dorian's expected track running just to the north of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
Jeff Byard, an associate administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned that Dorian is likely to "create a lot of havoc with infrastructure, power and roads," but gave assurances FEMA is prepared to handle it, even though the Trump administration is shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from FEMA and other agencies to deal with immigration at the Mexican border.
“This is going to be a big storm. We’re prepared for a big response,” Byard said.
The hurricane season typically peaks between mid-August and late October. One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. was on Labor Day 1935. The unnamed Category 5 hurricane crashed ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sept. 2. It was blamed for over 400 deaths.
Also of note, the Hurricane Center began tracking a tropical wave off the coast of Africa that as of 8 a.m. has a 30 percent chance of tropical system formation in the next five days. If it forms, it will be the seventh tropical depression of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. If it grows into a named storm, it would become Tropical Storm Fernand.