Friday, August 30, 2019
Florida braces for Hurricane Dorian
Florida residents picked the shelves clean of bottled water and lined up at gas stations Thursday as an increasingly menacing-looking Hurricane Dorian threatened to broadside the state over Labor Day weekend.
Leaving lighter-than-expected damage in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the second hurricane of the 2019 season swirled toward the U.S., with forecasters warning it will draw energy from the warm, open waters as it closes in.
The National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm is expected to strengthen into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 with winds of 130 mph and slam into the U.S. on Monday somewhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia – a 500-mile stretch that reflected the high degree of uncertainty this far out.
“If it makes landfall as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, that’s a big deal,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.
“A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims.”
President Donald Trump canceled his weekend trip to Poland and warned Florida residents to be prepared.
“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.
With the storm’s track still unclear, no immediate mass evacuations were ordered.
Along Florida’s east coast, local governments began distributing sandbags, shoppers rushed to stock up on food, plywood and other emergency supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores, and motorists topped off their tanks and filled gasoline cans. Some fuel shortages were reported in the Cape Canaveral area.
As of Thursday evening, Dorian was centered about 330 miles east of the Bahamas, its winds blowing at 85 mph as it moved northwest at 13 mph.
It is expected to pick up steam as it pushes out into warm waters with favorable winds, the University of Miami’s McNoldy said, adding: “Starting tomorrow, it really has no obstacles left in its way.”
The National Hurricane Center’s projected track had the storm blowing ashore midway along the Florida peninsula, southeast of Orlando and well north of Miami or Fort Lauderdale. But because of the difficulty of predicting its course this far ahead, the “cone of uncertainty” covered nearly the entire state.
Forecasters said coastal areas of the Southeast could get 5 to 10 inches of rain, with 15 inches in some places, triggering life-threatening flash floods.
Also imperiled were the Bahamas, with Dorian’s expected track running just to the north of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.