Hurricane Dorian has grown with increasing fury toward Florida, urging forecasters to reclassify the storm as an “extremely dangerous” category 4, set to menace the US east coast with a potentially devastating direct hit.
The Miami-based NWS National Hurricane Centre sent out an updated forecast at 9.30pm on Friday local time ((11.30am AEST) saying data collected from specialised “hurricane hunter” aircraft indicate that Dorian had strengthened to a category 4 storm.
By 1.30am on Saturday local time (3.30pm AEST), the centre said they expected there to be a “prolonged period of life threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds along the Florida coast”.
“Since Dorian is forecast to slow down and turn northward near the coast, it is too soon to determine when or where the highest surge and winds will occur. Residents should have their hurricane plan in place,” a statement said.
US President Donald Trump, who arrived at Camp David at 8pm local time on Friday, posted a 90-second message on Twitter saying the US was ready for this “absolute monster” of a storm.
“We’re ready, we’ve got the best people in the world working on it … it’s almost certain it’s going to hit dead centre and that’s not good,” he said.
He declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorised the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts.
He told reporters that “Mar-a-Lago can handle itself” and is more worried about Florida.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 31, 2019
Forecasters warned that no one is out of danger and Dorian could wallop the state with “extremely dangerous” 225 kph winds and torrential rains, with millions of people in the crosshairs, along with Walt Disney World and President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Earlier, some of the more reliable computer models predicted a turn northward that would have Dorian hug the coast, the National Hurricane Centre said, offering hope its intensity would diminish as it made landfall.
“There is hope,” Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said.
Those faint, encouraging signs came at the end of a day in which Dorian seemed to get scarier with each forecast update.
Watch as the eye of #HurricaneDorian2019 begins to form in this 1-minute visible loop from NOAA's #GOESEast. "Dangerous Hurricane #Dorian poses a significant threat to #Florida and the northwestern #Bahamas," according to the @NHC_Atlantic. Latest: https://t.co/W7u6rft9x2 pic.twitter.com/AuDJst6smv
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) August 30, 2019
It strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane in the afternoon, and there are now fears it could prove to be the most powerful hurricane to hit Florida’s east coast in nearly 30 years.
Late Friday, the National Hurricane Centre’s projected new track showed Dorian hitting near Fort Pierce, some 113 kilometres north of Mar-a-Lago, then running along the coastline as it moved north.
But forecasters cautioned that the storm’s track was still highly uncertain and even a small deviation could put Dorian offshore or well inland.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
“This is big and is growing, and it still has some time to get worse,” Julio Vasquez said at a Miami fast-food joint next to a gas station that had run out of fuel.
“No one knows what can really happen. This is serious.”
Wow, new model suite is in, and there's a big shift eastward. We could see some changes in the 11pm advisory. Hoping this continues and it doesn't flip back. #HurricaneDorian #dorian #HurricaneDorian2019 #DorianFlorida #florida #flwx #tropics #storm #summer #fridaynight pic.twitter.com/GkwwoWixv5
— James Wieland (@SurfnWeatherman) August 31, 2019
In Florida, the governor urged nursing homes to take precautions to prevent tragedies like the one during Hurricane Irma two years ago, when the storm knocked out the air conditioning at a facility in Hollywood and 12 patients died in the sweltering heat.
Four employees of the home were charged with manslaughter earlier this week.
The hurricane season typically peaks between mid-August and late October.
The wind is beginning to kick up here in South Florida pic.twitter.com/d2CQcJCki4
— julie k. brown (@jkbjournalist) August 30, 2019
One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US 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.