Hurricane Dorian has been upgraded to a Category 4, a major and extremely dangerous hurricane, and could now make landfall in the Carolinas.
“There’s been a notable change overnight to the forecast of Dorian after Tuesday,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Twitter Saturday morning. However, the NHC also stressed that the new forecast does not preclude Dorian making landfall on the Florida coast.
Early on Saturday morning, Dorian was bearing down on the northwestern Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and was located about 445 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
Forecasters expect the hurricane will hit the east coast on Tuesday morning, while other models predict it will rip through central Florida. Dorian could unleash catastrophic winds, heavy flooding and life-threatening storm surge exacerbated by high tides at the coast.
Florida residents are scrambling to secure supplies at crowded grocery stores and waiting for hours at gas stations that are running out of fuel.
Dorian could also be the first hurricane of Category 4 or higher to hit Florida since 2018, when Hurricane Michael slammed into the Panhandle and caused widespread damage.
“Two days ago, no one was worried,” said Sarah Lam, a clinical researcher who lives in Miami. “Everyone’s in survival mode now.”
“As soon as I went to the grocery store, shopping carts were gone, people were bringing their own luggage so they could roll the water gallons away and shoving past each other.”
“But all the water was gone. And the majority of gas stations are out of gas,” she added.
The entire state of Florida is under a declaration of emergency. No evacuations were ordered as of early Friday, but many are expected as the storm’s path becomes clearer. If Dorian hits Florida, it would be the fourth hurricane to do so since 2016, after Hermine in 2016, Irma in 2017 and Michael in 2018.
The Florida National Guard has activated 2,500 members, with another 1,500 on standby. The state has also ordered a million gallons of water and sent 860,000 bottles of water to counties.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents to load up on a week’s worth of food, water and medicine, as well as prepare for power outages for multiple days. On Friday, people were racing to finish storm preparations, cleaning out grocery store shelves and causing delays at gas stations as cars lined up for fuel.
Rochelle (L) and Venicia Crise fill sand bags in preparation for the hurricane Dorian on August 29, 2019 in Casselberry, Florida.
Gerardo Mora | Getty Images
Concern over fuel
Gas stations have been running out of fuel rapidly, as happened in 2017 during Hurricane Irma, which hit Florida and triggered gas outages across the state. Some residents are even leaving their cars at the stations.
On Friday, more than half the gas stations in Miami and West Palm Beach had no fuel left, as well as nearly half the gas stations in Fort Myers and Gainesville, according to gas-tracking app Gas Buddy.
In response, the state has set up police escorts to deliver more gas to stations, and waived service and truck rates for fuel trucks, DeSantis said on Friday morning. Some officials expect that fuel shipments could be delayed.
However, AAA Florida assured residents that there was still plenty of gas to fill cars and the gas tanks for generators, as long as port terminals remain open and trucks continue to make deliveries. And Colonial Pipeline, which delivers gas and diesel fuel, said it was operating normally and doesn’t plan to shut down.
“Gas stations can only hold so much fuel at a time. As hurricanes approach, retailers run out of gasoline, like stores run out of water,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “However, work will continue as long as it is safe, to resupply those tanks. Although there is still plenty of gasoline in the state, the challenge is getting it from the terminals to the pump.”
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local responses to the storm, after DeSantis extended an emergency declaration in all the state’s 67 counties.
The president also canceled a trip to Poland on Thursday to ensure resources are directed for the storm, adding that the storm “could be an absolute monster.”
“The biggest concern will be Dorian’s slow motion when it is near Florida, placing some areas of the state at an increasing risk of a prolonged, drawn-out event of strong winds, dangerous storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said in a Friday morning advisory.
“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 Hurricane Center said.
Correction: Hurricane Dorian could be the first Category 4 storm or higher to hit Florida since 2018. A previous version of this story misstated the year.