Hurricane Dorian strengthened late Wednesday night, and that is expected to continue as the National Hurricane Center says the storm could become a Category 4 storm as it tracks toward the Florida coastline with an anticipated landfall on Monday.
Dorian, which had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph as of Thursday at 11 a.m., is forecast to intensify into a major hurricane as it moves into a highly favorable environment over the open waters of the western Atlantic.
In its 11 a.m. forecast discussion, Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm could reach the Category 4 threshhold of 130 mph winds off the east coast, just north of the Bahamas, in the next 72 hours.
The storm is forecast to pass east of the Bahamas and approach Florida’s Atlantic Coast late Sunday or Monday.
Tropical storm force winds (39 mph or greater) could arrive along the coast as early as late Saturday afternoon, but are more likely to arrive midday Sunday.
The exact location of landfall is unknown this far in advance and has an equal chance of occurring anywhere along Florida’s Atlantic coast. Coastal locations can expect damaging winds, life threatening storm surge, and localized rainfall of over 10 inches through early next week.
The heavy rain may become a significant inland hazard, particularly if the storm’s forward motion slows down as is currently forecast.
A strong ridge of high pressure is expected to build near the mid-Atlantic coast over the weekend, causing Dorian to turn toward more toward west in the general direction of Florida. The vast majority of the computer models forecast this scenario, but a few of the models forecast a weak trough over the Ohio Valley to disrupt the steering ridge. If this were to happen, Dorian could slow down on its approach to Florida and turn more toward the Carolinas.
Very little wind shear, warm waters, and greater moisture will surround Dorian as it approaches the Bahamas and Florida this weekend. These factors all suggest Dorian will become a hurricane on its approach. The latest National Hurricane Center Forecast makes the storm a Category 3 hurricane as the center approaches Florida on Monday.
As of 11 a.m., the National Hurricane Center says Dorian is about 150 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has top sustained winds near 85 mph. It is moving toward the northwest at about 13 mph.
Multiple reports of hurricane-force winds occurred near St. Thomas, as Dorian crossed the Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon.
The center of the storm reformed farther to the north on Tuesday, which allowed it to avoid significant interaction with any large land areas. As a result, Dorian maintained its strength and is now poised to strengthen over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean east of the Turks and Caicos Islands on Thursday.
Forecasters say that Florida residents and vacationers should continue to monitor the progress of Dorian in the coming days and ensure they have hurricane plan in place in case they need to act upon it.