US President Donald Trump has cancelled a planned trip to Poland as Florida declares a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Mr Trump said the highly dangerous category four storm looked like it could be a “very big one indeed”.
He said he wanted to remain close to home to “ensure that all resources of the federal government” were focused on the impending storm, as forecasters warn Dorian could potentially cause “catastrophic damage”.
“It’s something very important for me to be here. The storm looks like it could be a very, very big one indeed,” Mr Trump said.
Dorian is likely to make landfall on Florida’s eastern coast on Monday before lingering over central Florida on Tuesday.
It is reportedly on a potential collision course with Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
The Tampa Bay Times said Dorian was likely to hit land in Melbourne, Florida, about 185 kilometres north of the President’s Palm Beach resort. Mar-a-Lago remained in the hurricane’s “cone of uncertainty”, the newspaper said.
“It’s looking like it could be an absolute monster,” Mr Trump said in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday, adding that food and water was being shipped to Florida.
“It does seem almost certain that it’s hitting dead centre and that’s not good. The winds seem to be building at a tremendous rate. It looks like the winds are going to be unbelievably high.”
Vice President Mike Pence will go to Poland, so that Mr Trump can remain in the US as the storm hits.
GFS 12z view of #HurricaneDorian as it tracks over the northern #Bahamas and then onto #Florida by Monday! National hurricane centre expects landfall at potentially category 4 status bringing dangerous conditions! #Dorian #USA pic.twitter.com/YAIjYTmUdR
— WEATHER/ METEO WORLD (@StormchaserUKEU) August 29, 2019
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had earlier declared a state of emergency for 26 counties on Florida’s east coast. On Thursday, he extended it to the whole state.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties to assist with storm readiness, response and recovery.
“We’re worried. This is not looking good for us,” said Angela Johnson, 39, bar manager at Coconuts On The Beach, a bar and restaurant on the surfing beach of the Florida town of Cocoa Beach.
“We woke up a lot more scared than we went to bed last night, and the news is not getting any better.”
Authorities have cancelled some commercial flights, planned precautions at rocket launch sites along the Space Coast and prepared to give out sand to residents for sandbags ahead of the storm’s arrival.
The University of Central Florida, one of the US’s largest universities, said its main campus in Orlando would close on Friday afternoon.
“All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts,” Mr DeSantis said.
“As it increases strength, this storm has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant. Do not wait until it is too late to make a plan.”
The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said Dorian was predicted to pack winds reaching 209km/h in the next 72 hours, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricane intensity.
The centre describes category four storms as capable of causing “catastrophic damage” including severe damage to well-built homes.
It said in such storms, “most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed”.
Mr DeSantis urged all Floridians on the east coast to monitor the storm as it developed.
“Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster.
As a category one hurricane, Dorian was headed toward the Bahamas on Thursday, after sideswiping Caribbean islands without doing major damage.
It was expected to strengthen and slam the Bahamas and the south-east US with rain, strong winds and life-threatening surf within days.
Dorian was packing maximum sustained winds of 137km/h on Thursday, some 355 kilometres north-north-west of San Juan, and about 600 kilometres east of the Bahamas, the hurricane centre said.