MIAMI, FL — Hurricane Dorian was nearly a major hurricane as 110 mph winds arrived early Friday morning but the latest forecast now has the storm hitting Florida as a major hurricane at 2 a.m. Tuesday. The storm is expected to become a Category 3 hurricane by Friday afternoon as it churns toward Florida’s east coast, the National Hurricane Center said early Friday morning.
The risk of the storm growing to a category 4 before it makes landfall has increased, although where it will hit the coast and how strong it will be are still unknown. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency ahead of the storm to include the entire state as residents appear to have gained an extra day to stock up on water, gas, batteries and other storm essentials.
“You can make a case that this can have an affect in virtually every part of the state,” the governor warned earlier outside the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “The time to act is now. If you haven’t acted to make preparations, do not wait until it’s too late.”
The governor urged Floridians to have seven days of food, medicine and water on hand and said it is likely that anyone affected by the storm will lose power as people lined up all over the state at Costco, Publix and other stores. The latest forecast put Dorian arriving on Florida’s shores about 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
Florida State University confirmed that Saturday’s football game against Boise State, which was originally scheduled for the TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, will now be played at noon on the Seminoles’ home field at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
The Rolling Stones announced that their Miami concert scheduled for Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium will now take place on Friday night as a result of concerns over Dorian and a number of Florida schools and colleges announced plans to extend the Labor Day holiday.
“Data from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 110 mph … with higher gusts,” warned the National Hurricane Center early Friday morning. “Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane later today. Dorian is likely to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula through the weekend.”
The storm was located about 225 miles east, northeast of the southeastern Bahamas and about 505 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and higher gusts as of 8 a.m. Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A Hurricane Watch was in effect for the northwestern Bahamas.
“There is an increasing likelihood of a prolonged period of hazardous weather conditions that could last for a couple of days in parts of Florida early next week,” weather officials said. “The risk of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast has increased, although it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge will occur.”
Weather officials also noted that the “risk of devastating hurricane-force winds” has also increased along Florida’s east coast and peninsula for early next week.
The National Hurricane Center said heavy rains are expected over portions of the Bahamas, Florida and elsewhere in the southeastern United States this weekend into the middle of next week regardless of where Dorian strikes.
Coastal sections of the Southeast could be drenched with 6 to 12 inches of rain, with isolated 15 inch totals possible in some areas. This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods, the NHC said.
Warning Coordination Meteorologist Robert Molleda with the National Weather Service in Miami told Patch that preparation is key.
“We don’t have a hurricane watch or warning in effect for any part of the state,” Molleda said. “Certainly, this is a good time here over the next couple of days to make sure that we have things in order and our hurricane plan is in order, and that we have for example, water, food, batteries etc. — all those things that we need to have as part of our hurricane plan and our hurricane kit.”
He said Dorian’s winds are forecast to reach 115 mph by 2 p.m. Friday and 125 mph by Saturday afternoon.
“The threat is still very much present for Dorian to affect some part of the state,” Molleda told Patch early Thursday evening. “We’re still forecasting a landfall somewhere along the Florida east coast on Monday. The overall threat is increasing. The thing that is yet to be determined — or that we don’t have enough information on — is what area gets hit by the worst part of the storm.”
Molleda urged Floridians to pay attention to any possible watches and warnings heading into the weekend.
“If and when hurricane watches and warnings would be issued later in the week and into the weekend, then of course that’s the time we’re going to have to put our plan into place,” he added.
Patch is tracking every move of Tropical Storm Dorian. Get all the updates on the storm by subscribing to Patch’s free breaking news alerts and daily newsletters.
Weather officials said hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center while tropical force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.
“Dorian is moving toward the northwest near 12 mph … and this motion is expected to continue through today. A slower west-northwestward to westward motion is forecast to begin tonight and continue through the weekend,” the National Hurricane Center said.
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.
“On this track, Dorian should move over the Atlantic well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas today, approach the northwestern Bahamas Saturday, and move near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday,” weather officials explained early Friday.
Power outages and flooding were reported across the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after Dorian hit St. Thomas as a Category 1 storm.
A weather researcher from Colorado State University’s prestigious CSU Tropical Meteorology Project told Patch that Hurricane Dorian was likely to get a boost from Tropical Depression Erin, which does not appear to pose a threat to the United States.
“It’s directly behind Erin who has left a lot of moisture in the area,” she explained. “There is enough for Dorian to actually power up.”
Meanwhile, Dorian already caused an island-wide blackout in St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and scattered power outages in St. Croix, government spokesman Richard Motta told AP. In addition, the storm downed trees and at least one electric post in St. Thomas, he said, adding that there were no reports of major flooding.
“We are grateful that it wasn’t a stronger storm,” he said.
Dorian had prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency Tuesday night and order federal assistance for local authorities.
Police said an 80-year-old man in the northern town of Bayamón in Puerto Rico died Wednesday after he fell trying to climb up to his roof to clear it of debris ahead of the storm.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is still struggling to recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria, officials reported power outages amid driving rains and heavy wind.
Many in Puerto Rico worried about ahead of the storm about power outages and heavy rains on an island still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit nearly two years ago. Some 30,000 homes still have blue tarps as roofs and the electrical grid remains fragile and prone to outages even during brief rain showers.
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About 45 members of Miami-Dade County’s Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (Florida Task Force 1) deployed to San Juan ahead of Dorian.
The team provides search and rescue capabilities, medical support, communications and damage assessment as well as coordinating the distribution of relief supplies.
Another 25 first responders from Miami Fire Rescue, all members of Florida Task Force 2, arrived in Puerto Rico on Tuesday and told Patch they were heading to St Croix.
Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that weather researchers now believe there will be more hurricanes in 2019 than previously expected.
The updated hurricane season outlook calls for 10 to 17 named storms, of which five to nine are expected to become hurricanes. Two to four of those could become major hurricanes, according to NOAA.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.