Hurricane Dorian likely to hit US mainland; Emergency declared in Florida

Tuesday, 03 Sep, 2019

But this much we do know: The cyclone strengthened Wednesday from a tropical storm to a hurricane, whipping 80-mph winds as it pummeled the US Virgin Islands.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico on Wednesday faced its first major test of emergency preparedness since the 2017 devastation of Hurricane Maria as Tropical Storm Dorian neared the USA territory at near-hurricane force - and forecasters said it could grow to Category 3 status as it nears the United States mainland later.

There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surges along portions of Florida's east coast late this weekend or early next week, the NHC said. Storms become hurricanes when their wind speeds reach 74 miles per hour or stronger.

Warm waters are expected to strengthen the storm over the next few days.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration Wednesday night for the U.S. Virgin Islands, ordering federal assistance with disaster relief for the U.S. territory. Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang's tropical weather expert, tweeted that the National Hurricane Center's average track error this far out is three times that - 240km. The storm is expected to continue northwest Thursday and then potentially turn more western starting Friday evening, according to CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford.

Another possible scenario is for Dorian to slow or stall as it approaches Florida hugging the coast or meandering just offshore over multiple high tide cycles.

The NHC said Dorian was blowing maximum sustained winds of 130 km/h some 60 miles north-northwest of San Juan, making it a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity.

Dorian could be the most powerful hurricane to smash into the east coast of Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Curry said. "The impacts are unpredictable".

Dorian is likely to make landfall on Florida's east coast on Monday, before lingering over central Florida on Tuesday, the hurricane centre said in an advisory. He told reporters that "Mar-a-Lago can handle itself" and is more anxious about Florida. "I will continue to monitor Hurricane Dorian closely with emergency management officials". The big cruise lines began rerouting their ships. Disney World and Orlando's other resorts found themselves in the storm's projected path.

While Dorian is a smaller storm, "if it follows the current path, it will be quite devastating and impactful to the entire industry", Richey said in a telephone interview.

But some counties announced mandatory evacuations ahead of time on Friday. He said only one community lost power. The Brevard County order includes the Kennedy Space Center.

Homeowners and businesses rushed to cover their windows with plywood.

At a Publix supermarket in Cocoa Beach, Ed Ciecirski of the customer service department said the pharmacy was extra busy with people rushing to fill prescriptions.

Across the state, residents are heeding the warnings, typical Labor Day burger and bun shopping has been eclipsed by shelve-clearing runs on supplies from bottled water to batteries. The center of Hurricane Dorian is located near latitude 18.3 north, longitude 65.0 west. It was moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour (17 kph).

Rainfall in the Southeast will range from 4 to 8 inches, with some isolated areas of 12 inches, officials said.

"That's major hurricane winds, that's storm surge of 10 and even 20 feet in some of those areas", he said.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis broke down in tears as he addressed a news conference, calling it "probably the most sad and worst day of my life", the Nassau Guardian reported.