Hurricane Dorian was continuing to strengthen in the Atlantic waters and has now reached Category 4, with maximum sustained winds of 220 kmph, as it slowly moves towards Florida, the US National Hurricane Centre said (NHC).
In its latest bulletin at 11 p.m. on Friday, the NHC said that the storm could strengthen further on Saturday and was currently located about 605 km east of the northwestern islands of the Bahamas Archipelago and around 877 km east of West Palm Beach in southern Florida, reports Efe news.
The powerful cyclone is moving west-northwest at a slow speed of 16 kmph, allowing it to get better organized and gain more strength.
According to the bulletin, Dorian will begin moving west-northwestward to westward and continue to do so until early next week, which should allow the core of the hurricane to “be near the Florida east coast late Monday (September 2)” and over the Atlantic well north of the southeastern and central Bahamas on Friday night and Saturday and near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday.
“Although fluctuations in intensity are possible early next week, Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days,” the bulletin added.
The NHC said that hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 48 km from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 168 km were accompanying the storm.
These will cause a “life-threatening” storm surge that will raise water levels 10-15 feet above normal tide levels along the coast in the northwest Bahamas and be accompanied by “large and destructive” waves, the NHC warned.
It added that these torrential downpours could trigger life-threatening flash floods.
Florida, where a state-wide state of emergency has been declared, is bracing for flooding, strong winds, storm surge and even a phenomenon known as a “king tide,” a twice-yearly unusually high tide that has nothing to do with the hurricane but could coincide with its arrival.
Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia has also declared a state of emergency in 12 counties in the southern coastal area of the state.
Four other weather systems have intensified to at least tropical storm strength during the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, which began in June and technically ends on November 30.
One of them, Barry, became a Category 1 hurricane shortly before making landfall on July 13 in Louisiana, where it caused as much as $900 million in property damage but no fatalities.