kccu

Hurricane Dorian Grows Into Category 3 Storm As It Heads Toward Bahamas, U.S.

5 hours ago
Originally published on August 30, 2019 4:53 pm

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

Hurricane Dorian became a Category 3 storm Friday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center, and is expected to swirl into a Category 4 as it heads across the Atlantic toward the Bahamas and the Florida coast.

The government of the Bahamas has issued a hurricane warning for the northwestern Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center in its 5 p.m. ET update.

Dorian was about 420 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas and about 595 miles east of West Palm Beach, Fla., according to the hurricane center. The storm was moving northwest at 9 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

One NOAA hurricane model showed Dorian bringing between 1 and 2 feet of rain "for basically every coastal county from Miami to North Carolina," said meteorologist Eric Holthaus. "Combined with storm surge and exceptionally high new moon tides, this would be a coastal flooding catastrophe."

The hurricane center classifies major hurricanes as being Category 3, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph, and above on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. "Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week," the NHC said.

On Friday morning, the Bahamas Meteorology Department issued its 12th alert on Dorian, warning of 6 to 12 inches of rainfall over the northwest Bahamas as the storm moves in on Saturday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency to include all of the state's 67 counties, citing the storm's "uncertain path." Late Thursday, he said he sent a letter requesting that President Trump declare a pre-landfall disaster for all counties. Hours earlier, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties.

On Friday, Trump granted DeSantis' request for an emergency declaration in Florida, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide equipment and resources to save lives, protect property and alleviate "the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population," according to the White House.

Dorian is expected to be one of the strongest hurricanes to strike Florida's east coast in decades. The National Hurricane Center warned of an increasing likelihood of a life-threatening storm surge along parts of Florida's east coast.

The storm is expected to move inland, where its slow pace could mean extended misery for communities facing high winds and rainfall. The hurricane-force winds could cause long-term power outages, with areas uninhabitable for weeks or months, according to the NHC wind scale guide.

"We're fully mobilized," Greg Oravec, the mayor of Port St. Lucie, Fla., told NPR. "At this point, everyone should be taking Friday and Saturday and putting up their shutters." He emphasized that residents should protect their structures from gusty winds and have seven days' worth of food, water and medicine stored.

Although the storm's track is still uncertain on the Florida Peninsula, Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach and the Trump Doral resort near Miami are in the vicinity of Dorian's projected path. The Miami Herald reported that all employees of Mar-a-Lago except for security personnel were sent home for the duration of the storm. Doral's pool and other amenities were reportedly closed, with generators ready to supply backup power if necessary.

Trump canceled his plans to travel to Poland this weekend as the hurricane neared.

Dorian's approach comes days after the Trump administration announced that it would divert $271 million in funds from FEMA — including $155 million from the agency's disaster relief fund — to other units in the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to support the president's border enforcement priorities.

Florida Power & Light said it has almost 5,000 workers ready for the storm and that it was working to get additional crews to help customers who lose power.

Photographs showed stores with cleared-out shelves as people got ready for the storm's arrival. Home Depot announced Thursday that it had sent more than 160 truckloads of supplies to stores to help people prepare.

Dorian passed over parts of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and other islands in the Caribbean on Wednesday, causing power outages and flooding as it gained strength.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.