Dorian has quickly grown into one of the most powerful hurricanes on the record in the U.S., on a track to slowly approach Florida's east coast before taking an antipated turn to the north.
Dorian was a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane with winds of 185 mph when it made landfall at Elbow Cay in the Abaco islands in the Bahamas on Sunday afternoon.
As of Sunday at 2 p.m., Dorian's maximum sustained winds remained at 185 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is located about 185 miles east of West Palm Beach, slowing down even further and continuing to crawl east at just 7 mph.
Dorian is now tied for the fourth strongest winds in the Atlantic since 1950, when record keeping began improving.
The eyewall of Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco islands with devastating winds and will continue near or over Grand Bahama Island later Sunday and Monday, according to the hurricane center advisory from the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane should move closer to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night.
Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 45 miles from the center of Dorian, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles, the advisory said. Forecasters say that distance could expand.
Tropical storm warnings are extending to more parts of Florida’s east coast on Sunday morning as Hurricane Dorian is still forecast to come perilously close to Florida before skirting the Southeast.
However, the hurricane is large enough, strong enough, and could move close enough to spread tropical storm force winds across sections of the Treasure Coast, according to Jeff Huffman, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.
The National Hurricane Center has now issued a hurricane watch and storm surge watch from north of Deerfield Beach in Broward County to the Volusia/Brevard county line. Lake Okeechobee is under a tropical storm watch.
“The watch was issued because Dorian’s wind field is forecast to become larger in size as it approaches, and it takes into account small wobbles hurricanes can make, according to Ray Hawthorne, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. "Tropical storm winds are still the most likely scenario and tropical storm warnings remain in effect for areas from the Brevard/Indian River county line southward.”
According to the National Weather Service, Polk and Highlands counties are under a tropical storm watch. Tropical storm conditions could occur Monday night into Tuesday.
Tropical storm force winds could also reach parts of South Florida and the Space Coast on Monday, gradually spreading toward Daytona Beach and the First Coast on Tuesday, Huffman said. Hurricane force winds are becoming less likely and should stay offshore.
Hurricane center forecasters predict 4-7 feet of storm surge from Jupiter Inlet to the Brevard/Volusia county line, and 2-4 feet from the Miami-Dade/Palm Beach county line north to Jupiter Inlet.
Hurricane warnings remain in effect for the northwestern Bahamas as Dorian is set to hammer the island with 12-24 inches of rain, with 30 inches in isolated areas, that forecasters say will produce life-threatening flooding and storm surge.
11 PM Saturday... Major Hurricane Dorian remains a significant risk to Florida's east coast https://t.co/l2xP0h0CA6
— Florida Storms (@FloridaStorms) September 1, 2019
A high pressure ridge that has helped steer Dorian to the east is expected to weaken by Sunday night, according to the latest hurricane center forecast discussion, which could slow Dorian to a near-standstill near the Bahamas into Tuesday. This helped Dorian further intensify before it's forecast to weaken slightly – but still remaining a strong Category 4 storm in the next 36-48 hours.
Dorian will then move “farther to the west during the next couple of days,” flirting with a Florida landfall late Monday through Tuesday night before taking the anticipated turn to the north starting Tuesday and hugging the coast into the Carolinas into Thursday.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Dorian stories from WUSF and throughout the state
“Although the official track forecast does not show landfall, users should not focus on the exact track since a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility,” according to Senior Hurricane Specialist Richard Pasch's Sunday morning forecast discussion.
Even if Dorian spares a direct Florida hit, it is forecast to generate hurricane-force winds, large swells, and life-threatening surf and rip currents along the east coast, along with 2-4 inches of rain – and 6 inches in isolated areas.
Coastal flooding is likely, regardless of how close Dorian gets to the state,Huffman said. The new moon is causing high astronomical tides during the times of high tide. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville has issued Coastal Flood Advisories. Tidal departures may reach 1 to 2 feet above normal this weekend.
Coastal areas in the Carolinas, however, are forecast to receive 5-10 inches, and 15 inches in isolated areas.
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network meteorologists Jeff Huffman and Ray Hawthorne, and information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.