Hurricane Dorian hit its feared Category 4 strength on Friday as the newest forecast models today indicated the storm may spare Florida a direct hit and hug the coast on a northward journey.
The National Hurricane Center said today that Dorian — about 415 miles east of West Palm Beach, Fla. — was packing maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. A hurricane warning was in effect for the northwestern Bahamas.
Without certainty on the storm’s track, the NHC said Friday that “interests in southern and central Florida should monitor the progress of Dorian” and the National Weather Service stressed today that “the risk of strong winds and dangerous storm surge is increasing along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.”
Dorian slowed down to about 8 mph today, and slower westward motion was expected into early next week. “On this track, the core of Dorian should move over the Atlantic well north of the southeastern and central Bahamas today, be near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday, and move near the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday,” continued the NHC advisory.
An NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft confirmed the Category 4 winds, and “some additional strengthening is possible” today. Hurricane-force winds were extending 30 miles from the storm’s center. “Although fluctuations in intensity are possible early next week, Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days,” NHC said.
“DHS is employing all its resources to prepare for Hurricane Dorian – an approach that will be locally executed, state managed, and federally supported,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said after a midweek briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency Acting Administrator Pete Gaynor. “If you are in the path, now is the time to prepare. Please know your evacuation and shelter plan, discuss your plan with family and friends, gather needed supplies — including medications, and include a plan for your pets.”
The National Response Coordination Center is activated at its highest level as federal agencies prepare in conjunction with state officials. DHS encouraged people along the East Coast to download the FEMA App for real-time weather alerts from the National Weather Service and preparedness tips.
Our National Response Coordination Center is packed with partners representing the entire federal interagency. We continue preparing today for #Dorian and are closely coordinating with Florida and surrounding states. pic.twitter.com/CCionTTukb
— Peter Gaynor (@FEMA_Pete) August 30, 2019
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier expanded the state of emergency to all 67 counties “due to Hurricane Dorian’s uncertain projected path.” The Florida Department of Transportation has swept the shoulders of state roads because the evacuation paths that may be needed are also unknown. I-595 Express lanes will be open in the westward direction until the storm has passed. The Florida Highway Patrol is escorting fuel trucks to reach areas where residents are waiting in long lines for gas.
The governor activated 2,500 Florida National Guard troops, and another 1,500 are on standby.
“We will continue to receive constant updates from state agencies to ensure all available resources are being utilized,” DeSantis said. “I encourage all Floridians to continue to monitor updates and to heed all warnings from local officials.”
Fort Pierce, Fla., Mayor Linda Hudson told CNN on Friday that “we’ve had a lot of advance notice, so our county emergency operations center is in process and our city of Fort Pierce works closely with them.”
“We have our public works employees out collecting garbage and making sure there’s no debris on the streets. We have our Fort Pierce utilities authority doing the same thing. Our police department will go on Alpha Bravo, which is full-tilt boogie, all the staffs on call are in the police station starting tomorrow,” she said. “So we’re very prepared for this, but we understand people are concerned and, you know, have fear, and we want the people who want to evacuate to evacuate now.”
“…I know places are out of water and other places are advertising that they have water. Other places, some are out of ice and some are advertising. Social media is helping so much because people are telling people, this establishment has water, this establishment has ice. So we’re all in this together and we’re all helping each other.”
Hollywood, Fla., Mayor Josh Levy told CNN that beach evacuations will likely begin when the National Hurricane Center issues the first hurricane watch for the area.
“Millions of people here. Our county has two million residents. Hundreds of billions of dollars in property value and property here. So any hit to a populated area as dense as South Florida is might cause damage greater than we have ever seen in a hurricane in the United States — so we’re hoping, of course, to avoid that,” Levy said.
George Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a state of emergency for the counties of Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce and Wayne. The Atlanta Motor Speedway is opening its camping facilities to evacuees, said the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. EST