Hurricane Dorian has gained fearsome new muscle as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, bearing down on the northwestern Bahamas early yesterday en route to Florida’s east coast.
Millions of people in Florida, along with the state’s Walt Disney World and US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, are in the potential crosshairs of the hurricane.
Forecasters have said that Dorian, which had top sustained winds of 225kph on Friday night, would threaten the Florida Peninsula late tomorrow or early on Tuesday.
Photo: AFP / NASA Earth Observatory
However, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami cautioned that its meteorologists remain uncertain whether Dorian would make a devastating direct strike on the state’s east coast or inflict a glancing blow.
Some of the more reliable computer models predicted a late turn northward that would have Dorian hug the Florida coast.
“There is hope,” Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said.
The faint hope of dodging Dorian’s fury came on Friday, even as the storm ratcheted up from a menacing Category 3 hurricane to an even more dangerous Category 4. That raised fears Dorian could become the most powerful hurricane to hit Florida’s east coast in nearly 30 years.
Center projections showed Dorian hitting roughly near Fort Pierce, about 113km north of Mar-a-Lago, then running along the coastline as it moved north.
However, forecasters cautioned that the storm’s track remains highly uncertain and even a small deviation could put Dorian offshore — or well inland.
Trump has declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorized the US Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts.
He told reporters that “Mar-a-Lago can handle itself” and that he is more worried about Florida.
“This is big and is growing, and it still has some time to get worse,” Julio Vasquez said at a Miami fast-food restaurant next to a gas station that had run out of fuel. “No one knows what can really happen. This is serious.”
As Dorian closed in, Labor Day weekend plans were upended. Major airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without fees. The big cruise lines began rerouting their ships. Disney World and Orlando’s other resorts found themselves in the storm’s projected path.
Still, with Dorian days away and its track uncertain, Disney and other major resorts held off announcing any closings, and Florida authorities ordered no immediate mass evacuations.
“Sometimes if you evacuate too soon, you may evacuate into the path of the storm if it changes,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.
However, some counties announced mandatory evacuations ahead of time on Friday.
Homeowners and businesses rushed to cover their windows with plywood. Supermarkets ran out of bottled water and long lines formed at gas stations, with some fuel shortages reported.
At a Publix supermarket in Cocoa Beach, Ed Ciecirski from the customer service department said that the pharmacy was extra busy, with people rushing to fill prescriptions.
The grocery department was rationing bottled water and had run out of dry ice.
“It’s hairy,” he said.
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