- Hurricane Dorian, a powerful Category 4 storm, is inching closer to the US. The National Hurricane Center said Monday that powerful winds will be felt in Florida starting Monday night.
- Dorian tied the record for the strongest hurricane landfall ever recorded in the Atlantic.
- The storm is moving very slowly, bringing “catastrophic” conditions to the Bahamas, where one person has been reported dead.
- Dorian may not make landfall in the US — its path could instead hug the coast, bringing catastrophic storm conditions to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
- More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate in parts of those states.
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Hurricane Dorian is inching closer to the US — the National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts it could bring hurricane conditions to Florida as early as Monday night.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, the storm was sitting directly over the Bahamas, where it has already wreaked havoc. Hubert Minnis, the prime minister of the Bahamas, said the hurricane has likely caused “unprecedented devastation.”
Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, and storm-surge warnings there suggest water levels could reach 18 to 23 feet above normal tide. The storm is moving particularly slowly, at just 1 mph, giving it more time to cause destruction.
One person in the Bahamas has been reported dead.
“This is a life-threatening situation. Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye,” the NHC said. “Residents in the Abacos should continue to stay in their shelter until conditions subside later today.”
Dorian’s slightly slower wind speeds (155 mph as of 11 a.m. ET on Monday) make it a Category 4 hurricane as of Monday morning. After it passes the Bahamas, the NHC expects hurricane conditions to arrive in Florida late Monday night or Tuesday morning.
“Dorian is forecast to remain a very powerful hurricane while it moves near the southeastern United States coast,” the NHC warned.
Warnings, watches, and evacuation orders from Florida to South Carolina
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate along the US East Coast.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the portion of the Florida coast from the Jupiter Inlet up to the border between Flagler and Volusia Counties in northern Florida. A storm surge warning is in affect for the Florida coast from Lantana (just south of West Palm Beach) up to the Flagler/Volusia county line. Water levels there could crest up to 7 feet above normal tides.
Forecasts suggest that Dorian’s path will likely shift north, drawing it close to the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas later this week.
Meteorologists say the trajectory could still change, however.
“It cannot be stressed enough that only a small deviation to the left of the NHC forecast could bring the core of the extremely dangerous hurricane onshore of the Florida east coast within the hurricane warning are,” the NHC said on Monday. “In addition, Dorian’s wind field is predicted to expand, which would bring hurricane-force winds closer to the east coast of Florida even if the track does change.”
The NHC also warned of life-threatening flash flooding and hurricane-force winds in North and South Carolina.
Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia have announced mandatory evacuation orders that take effect starting at 12 p.m. ET Monday: McMaster ordered evacuations for South Carolina’s entire east coast, affecting about 830,000 people, according to the Associated Press. Kemp’s evacuations cover about 150,000 people in Georgia.
“We can’t make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive,” McMaster said, according to the AP.
“If you’re in an evacuation zone and they’re telling you to leave, please do so, and by the way, do it early,” NHC director Ken Graham said in a Facebook live video on Monday morning. “Sometimes that water’s going to get there before the winds, you’ll lose your roads and you can’t get out.”
Three Florida airports, including Orlando International Airport, are closed on Monday, and more than 1,000 flights have been cancelled across the US.
The storm has devastated the Bahamas, and it is still pounding the islands
Dorian struck the Bahamas with sustained wind speeds of 185 mph, tying the record for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall ever recorded. Its only rival is the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane that battered the Bahamas, Florida, and the US East Coast, the NHC tweeted on Sunday.
Some wind gusts in Great Abaco on Sunday afternoon reached up to 220 mph. Hubert Minnis, the prime minister of the Bahamas, said Sunday that in some parts of Abaco “you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins.”
— Josh Benson (@WFLAJosh) September 1, 2019
He called it “probably the saddest and worst day for me to address the Bahamian people.”
Early reports from the Islands as well as photos and videos shared on social media, show extreme flooding.
Dorian could be part of an above-average hurricane season
Dorian is the fourth named storm of this Atlantic hurricane season.
On average, the Atlantic sees six hurricanes in a season, with three developing into major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above). Hurricane season peaks in August through October and ends November 30.
These categories don’t necessarily indicate the full destructive power of a storm, however, since they’re based solely on wind speed. In Dorian’s case, the storm is traveling slowly, meaning its effects are likely to be prolonged.
Slower, wetter storms are becoming more common as the planet warms. Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study in the journal Nature found.