UPDATE

UNITED STATES—September 5, 2019—Hurricane Dorian, which has fluctuated in strength over the past few days as it churned offshore of the Florida and Georgia coastlines, is now a strong Category 2 storm battering the Carolina coasts with the possibility of making landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, according to the Washington Post. Heavy rain and flooding, life threatening storm surge, damaging winds, and tornadoes are among the impacts expected in the Carolinas over the next two days.

Dorian struck the Bahamas Sunday tied with the strongest Category 5 Atlantic storm ever to make landfall. It stalled over the Bahamas for 40 hours, punishing Grand Bahama Island with the power of its eyewall gusting up to 220 mph and flooding much of the land mass with 23 feet of storm surge and as much as 40 inches of rain in some areas, according to the Washington Post.

The storm weakened over the Bahamas and then marched slowly up the coast of Florida as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rains, rough surf, strong winds, and minor flooding to some coastal areas Tuesday and Wednesday. Airports, schools, and businesses were closed and coastal evacuations were ordered as a precaution due to Dorian’s unpredictability. According to the Miami Herald, around 140,000 people in Florida lost power, but most of those outages have been restored. After initial forecasts predicted Florida could suffer a direct hit from a Category 4 storm, the state largely dodged Dorian’s worst effects.

Dorian strengthened to a Category 3 storm Wednesday evening as it churned past Georgia, but dropped back to a Category 2 storm Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph; however, Dorian’s wind field has expanded, with hurricane-force winds extending 60 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extending up to 195 miles, according to The Washington Post. So far, approximately 220,000 customers have lost power in South Carolina, and the outer bands are also creating tornadoes and water spouts.

Storm surge and rainfall have already flooded parts of downtown Charleston, SC. The National Weather Service reported that some areas could see as much as three inches of rain per hour, leading to significant flash flooding along coastal South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina. The hurricane is expected to lash South Carolina’s coast through most of the day, moving into North Carolina late Thursday and Friday with effects being felt as far north as Virginia.

As the storm has made its way up the U.S. coast, residents and officials in the Bahamas are only beginning to assess the enormity of the devastation Dorian caused. So far 20 people have been reported dead, and that number is expected to grow, according to NBC News and other sources. Stunning satellite images show that more than half of Grand Bahama’s land mass is now underwater, and the Red Cross estimates that 13,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, according to NPR.

In a statement, the World Meteorological Organization compared the devastation in the Bahamas to that of Puerto Rico and Dominica from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. Those islands suffered billions in damages and are still recovering two years later. The statement points out that in addition to being one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded, Dorian was also one of the slowest-moving storms on record, which exacerbated its damages.


Hurricane Dorian Approaches U.S. Southeast Coast

September 2, 2019

Hurricane Dorian is now an extremely powerful Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts up to 220 mph, according to NBC News and other sources. Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 storm on Sunday afternoon at Elbow Cay, Abacus in the northern Bahamas. With 185 mph winds, Dorian has tied the 1935 Labor Day hurricane as the most powerful Atlantic storm ever to make landfall, the Associated Press reported.

In the Bahamas, Dorian’s winds tore roofs off houses, downed power lines, and overturned cars, according to the AP. The slow-moving storm struck the east side of Grand Bahama island Sunday night as winds slowed slightly to 180 mph. Storm surge of 18-23 feet was reported in the Bahamas and anywhere from 12 to 30 inches of rain is expected, according to NBC News.

Huricane Dorian

Image courtesy of NOAA.

As Hurricane Dorian inches toward the U.S., it is expected to turn to the north but exactly when or how sharply this turn will occur is difficult to predict. The AP reported that currently forecasters expect the storm to skirt the coast of Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday, staying 40-50 miles offshore as it moves north, then veering around Georgia and the Carolinas; however, the uncertainty in Dorian’s track means that landfall in any one of those states remains a possibility.

With hurricane-force winds extending 35 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds, storm surge, and heavy rain extending much farther, many counties in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas will likely still experience catastrophic effects of the storm, even if it never makes landfall. NBC News reported that authorities are urging residents all along the coast to remain vigilant and prepare for possible flooding, high winds, and potentially lengthy power outages.  In response to the storm’s uncertainty, mandatory evacuations have been ordered in vulnerable counties in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, according to the AP.

CNN reported that the Orlando Melbourne International Airport and the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International will both shut down at noon on Monday. So far, 770 flights have been canceled, disrupting Labor Day travel for many travelers.

NBC News reported Hurricane Dorian marks the first time in recorded history there have been four consecutive hurricane seasons that produced at least one Category 5 storm in the Atlantic. All five of these storms—Matthew, Irma, Maria, Michael, and now Dorian—have impacted the United States and/or its territories.

 


Hurricane Dorian Predicted to Strike Florida as a Category 4 Storm

August 29, 2019

Hurricane Dorian’s path has been difficult to predict, but as the storm churns northwest through warm Atlantic waters today, current forecasts expect Dorian to strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph by the time it makes landfall on Florida’s east coast sometime on Monday, according to CNN.

Hurricane Dorian cone

Image courtesy of NOAA.

More than 25 Florida counties have already declared states of emergency as officials urge residents to make preparations and monitor the storm’s progress. According to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, “Because it’s four days out, the range of potential landfall spots is vast—from the Florida Keys to southeast Georgia. And the center may pause at sea shortly before landfall, leaving its outer bands to drench much of Florida with lots of rain.”

ABC News reported that in addition to Category 4 winds, Dorian is expected to deliver life-threatening storm surge and over a foot of rain. If Dorian does make landfall with winds over 125 mph, it will be the strongest hurricane to hit Florida’s east coast since legendary Andrew in 1992.

Hurricane Dorian began the week tracking toward the west side of Puerto Rico before the mountains of St. Lucia in the Caribbean caused the storm to shift 30 miles north on Tuesday. Rather than the feared direct hit, Dorian delivered a glancing blow and heavy rains to the east coast of Puerto Rico and surprised the Virgin Islands as a Category 1 storm on Wednesday morning, according to The New York Times.

CNN reported that Dorian’s strong winds downed trees and power lines, leading authorities in the Virgin Islands to declare a state of emergency. Puerto Rico was spared, but The New York Times reported that the days of changing forecasts as Dorian tracked toward the island left many residents reliving the trauma of Hurricane Maria, the deadly Category 5 storm that devastated the island in 2017 and left more than a million people without water or power for months.

The Atlantic Hurricane season has been fairly quiet so far this year, with Dorian forming as just the second hurricane of the season and the first potential major hurricane. Only one other system, Barry, strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane before hitting Intracoastal City, Louisiana in July. Mid-August to mid-October is typically the most active period of the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to November 30. However, even during a quiet season, a single strong storm like Dorian can deliver a devastating blow to coastal communities.

With Hurricane Dorian’s path still uncertain and the outer effects of the storm expected to arrive as early as Saturday evening, residents up and down the Florida coast are stocking up on supplies. CNN reported that gas lines are already long and grocery store shelves are empty with pallets of bottled water selling out as soon as they are delivered. Officials have recommended that residents have at least seven days of food and supplies ready. When it comes to evacuation plans, all residents can do is wait for a more definitive forecast.