Florida is bracing for what could be the biggest hurricane to hit the state’s east coast in more than a quarter of a century, as Hurricane Dorian threatened to make landfall at the weekend with winds potentially in excess of 130mph.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for every Florida county. Donald Trump issued a video Thursday warning that the storm “could be an absolute monster”.
The National Weather Service said Dorian, which was building strength east of the Bahamas, would become a major hurricane on Friday afternoon. The winds from the storm were expected to arrive on the Florida coast on Sunday morning, in the middle of the Labor Day holiday weekend.
If Dorian lands as a category 4 storm, it could be the most powerful hurricane to affect the east coast of Florida since Hurricane Andrew roared ashore in 1992, causing devastating damage and killing 65 people.
In 2004, Hurricane Frances arrived in Florida as a Category 2 hurricane, killed 37 in Florida and wreaked damage costing billions.
There's an increasing chance for #Dorian to bring a triple-threat of dangers to the Florida east coast...
🌊life-threatening storm surge
🌬️devastating hurricane-force winds
The onset of tropical storm force winds could be as soon as Saturday evening.
Prepare NOW. pic.twitter.com/Moes49tcyu
— National Weather Service (@NWS) August 29, 2019
Trump has canceled his forthcoming trip this weekend to Poland as the storm approaches.
Millions of Floridians on Friday were stockpiling water, food, fuel and materials such as plywood to board up properties. They have been advised to track the storm closely.
Florida has called 2,500 National Guard troops into action and put a further 1,500 on stand-by as the hurricane spins off the south-western shore, roaring north-west towards the Bahamas and strengthening overnight into Friday, with winds of 105mph and gusts up to 125mph.
On Friday morning it was a category 2 hurricane out in the ocean and is increasingly likely to be a category 4 when it makes landfall, indicating winds over 130mph.
Forecasting maps modeling the path of the hurricane showed a good chance that it may hit Miami or further north, including Palm Beach or Orlando, but experts emphasized on Friday morning that it was too early to be certain and that this storm is very unpredictable.
It was announced on Thursday that the vice-president, Mike Pence, will travel to Poland in the president’s stead.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s citizens breathed a sigh of relief this week at having avoided major damage from Hurricane Dorian, after it had been on a path this week to hit the US island territory directly.
DeSantis urged residents to take precautionary measures including stockpiling water, canned food and other emergency supplies.
“Dorian could be a major hurricane,” DeSantis tweeted. “All Floridians on the east coast should have seven days of supplies, prepare their homes and follow the track closely.”
Georgia, another state potentially in the storm’s path, also declared a state of emergency for 12 counties nearest the state’s coastline.
Governor Brian Kemp said the storm “has the potential to produce catastrophic impacts to citizens” throughout the south-east coastal region of the United States.
One predicted track has the storm on course to hit Palm Beach county in southern Florida, the location of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. According to the Tampa Bay Times the president’s ocean-front property, often referred to as “the winter White House”, lies within the so called “cone of uncertainty”– the potential range of paths the hurricane could take.
DeSantis said he had spoken on the phone with Trump, who pledged support.
The hurricane center advised that heavy rains from the storm were expected to occur over portions of the Bahamas, Florida, and elsewhere in the south-eastern US “later this week and into early next week”.