Hurricane Dorian closes in on Bahamas as extremely dangerous storm

Hurricane Dorian closes in on Bahamas as extremely dangerous storm

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Hurricane Dorian is closing in on the Bahamas, where it’s expected to bring hurricane-force winds, heavy rainfall and life-threatening storm surge.

The National Hurricane Center said Sunday morning that the “extremely dangerous” storm is expected to hit the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island later on Sunday.

The category 4 hurricane strengthened and shifted Saturday as forecasters said it was on course to get close to Florida but make landfall in Georgia and the Carolinas.

As of 5 a.m. ET, the storm was still 255 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida and had sustained winds of near 150 mph.

On this track the core of Dorian should move closer to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night, the center said.

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There is now a tropical storm warning in effect for portions of the Florida east coast – from Deerfield Beach to Sebastian Inlet. And a tropical storm watch is also in effect from north of Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach.

Since Dorian is forecast to slow down and turn northward as it approaches the coast, the center says life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds are still possible for portions of the Florida east coast by the middle of this week.

“Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone and listen to advice given by local emergency officials,” the center said Sunday.

On Saturday, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis warned residents of his state to remain vigilant, cautioning that the hurricane could change course again and bring dangerous storm surges and flooding even if it does not make landfall there.

The hurricane center also warned about increasing risk of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina later this week.

As the storm barreled toward the northern Bahamas, officials were urging residents to evacuate areas most at risk.

“Homes, houses, structures can be replaced,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Saturday. “Lives cannot be replaced.”

Rainfall estimates have gone up for the Caribbean archipelago and the coastal Carolinas.

A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels in the area, the center said.

Near the coast, the surge will also be accompanied by large and destructive waves.

Between 12 and 24 inches of rain, and up to 30 inches in some areas, are expected in the northwestern Bahamas. That could lead to life-threatening flash floods, the center said.

Tourists vacationing in the Bahamas were sent to government shelters set up in schools, churches and other buildings offering protection from the storm.

Residents boarded up homes and officials hired boats to move people from low-lying areas to bigger islands as the powerful hurricane approached.

“Approximately 70,000 people call Grand Bahama and Great Abaco Island home,” said Bill Karins, a meteorologist for NBC News, in a tweet on Saturday. “They will be in the middle of a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane for two days starting tomorrow.”

Full coverage: Latest stories and video on Hurricane Dorian

Dorian turned into a potentially devastating Category 4 storm on Friday.

The hurricane was originally predicted to hit Florida’s east coast, but the National Hurricane Center announced early Saturday that there had been “a notable change overnight to the forecast of Dorian after Tuesday” with it veering away from Florida, but stressed that the shift does not rule out the possibility of the storm making landfall on the Sunshine State’s coast.

The new forecast also put the Carolinas and Georgia at risk.

President Donald Trump said he would discuss possible evacuations Sunday in a scheduled meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. He called off his planned trip to Poland over the weekend to oversee the response to Dorian.

The president tweeted Saturday that he was monitoring Dorian and receiving frequent briefings and updates. “It is important to heed the directions of your state and local officials,” the president said, calling Dorian “an extremely dangerous storm.”

After the hurricane shifted its course, he tweeted: “Looking like our great South Carolina could get hit MUCH harder than first thought. Georgia and North Carolina also. It’s moving around and very hard to predict, except that it is one of the biggest and strongest (and really wide) that we have seen in decades. Be safe!”

Trump approved an emergency declaration request for Florida on Friday. And on Saturday, South Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency as well.

“Given the strength and unpredictability of the storm, we must prepare for every possible scenario,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement. “We encourage all South Carolinians who may be impacted by Hurricane Dorian to be vigilant and prepare now — there is no reason for delay.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties on Thursday.

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