With Hurricane Dorian, now officially a Category 5 storm, forecast to hit the northern Bahamas in full force Sunday and linger there, experts say now is the time to make decisions to save lives.
“This is the time that the Bahamas (is) really going to have do some significant soul searching, whether you want to protect your valuables or protect yourself because this will be a life-threatening storm in the Bahamas,” CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said.
Dorian became a Category 5 hurricane just before 8 a.m. Sunday, with the National Hurricane Center calling it a “catastrophic” storm with “devastating winds.”
The northwestern Bahamas is under a hurricane warning, which means “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the National Hurricane Center said.
The northern Bahamas is already starting to feel the wind and rain of the now Category 4 storm. And conditions will only get worse as Dorian stalls over the Bahamas area — with current models forecasting that it could stay for 24 hours or longer — giving it plenty of time to rain down over the islands, according to CNN Meteorologist Rob Shackelford.
The hovering storm is predicted to bring storm surges that will raise water levels 15-20 feet above normal levels and bring rainfall totals in excess of 20 inches, Shackelford said.
And while the Bahamas has Dorian at its front door, the question of when (or if) the storm will hit the US mainland remains.
• Around 5 a.m. ET Sunday, Dorian was 70 miles east of Great Abaco, Bahamas, and 255 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
• A hurricane warning is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, except for Andros Island.
• Life-threatening storm surges of 15 to 20 feet could crash Sunday into the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, the National Hurricane Center said.
• The northwestern Bahamas also could get 10 to 25 inches of rain, the hurricane center said.
• Dorian is expected to move across the Bahamas slowly, creating life-threatening conditions as “rain, winds and storm surge (keep) piling up,” hurricane center Director Ken Graham said Saturday.
• Dorian’s forecast track has shifted east since Friday, meaning a landfall in Florida less likely, but not out of the question.
• Fluctuations in the storm’s intensity are likely but Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane over the next few days, the NHC said.
Where will Dorian go next?
Hurricane Dorian has been threatening to make its way to the US mainland, but there is still a lot of uncertainty on when and where it will make landfall.
The storm had been projected to reach Florida for Labor Day Weekend. But current forecasts have it turning north Monday evening. The storm is predicted to ride along the US east coast along Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, Shackelford said.
But will it make landfall on any of those states?
It is not yet clear. Many models show the storm staying just off Florida’s coast Tuesday and then skirting the coasts of Georgia and North and South Carolina.
Still, a major hurricane hovering just off a US coast could cause life-threatening damage.
“Understand: Even if it doesn’t directly strike Florida … you’re looking at major flooding events,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Saturday in Tallahassee.
With wind and rain still possible without direct landfall, many Florida residents are still preparing.
Pete Werner said he is riding out the storm at home in Orlando but is sending his mother to Walt Disney World. He said it’s the “safest place” to be in hurricane in Central Florida.
“Their hotels are built to exceed Florida building codes so they’re built to withstand a category 5 hurricane,” he said. “It’s a self contained city.”
Werner said he didn’t want his 88-year-old mother to be sitting in the heat if she loses power.
“I’d rather her ride it out in luxury over at the BoardWalk,” he said.