FIRST ALERT Weather: Dorian strongest hurricane to strike Northwestern Bahamas

Henrietta Brewer
September 1, 2019

The National Hurricane Center declared Hurricane Dorian, now headed toward Florida and the Bahamas, as a category 5 storm on Sunday morning.

Forecasters said the "extremely dangerous" storm has also grown in size, and hurricane force winds now extend 45 miles from the core.

The eye of the hurricane is due to make its first landfall on the island of Great Abaco in the northern Bahamas.

However, Harris says that the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau will remain open during the passing of Dorian, along with smaller airports in the central and southern Bahamas.

After churning over the Bahamas, Dorian is expected to veer northwest toward Florida, with the Miami-based NHC raising its alert on Sunday for parts of the state's east coast to a tropical storm warning. A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from north of Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will provide an update on Hurricane Dorian preparations.

Government spokesman Kevin Harris said Dorian was expected to affect 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes.

Hurricane Michael was the last Category 5 storm to make landfall in the U.S., striking Florida last October.

Now the storm's maximum sustained winds are 185 kilometers per hour (km/h) with higher gusts, and are moving northwest at 17 km/h, said NASA.

As of 8 a.m. Sunday, the hurricane is about 225 miles from West Palm Beach, Florida.

"These hazards will cause extreme destruction in the affected areas", the center said, "and will continue for several hours".

Dorian continues to be a extremely powerful category 4 hurricane with 150 miles per hour winds.

What's more, the monster storm is still a major hurricane with the potential to do tremendous damage in the state, even if the storm's center stays offshore, the NHC said.

"If you're watching anybody in the Bahamas a very risky, unsafe situation", said Ken Graham, the NHC's director.

There is an increasing risk of strong winds and unsafe storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina later this week.

Graham says the storm stalling also complicates the US forecast. A tropical storm watch has also been issued for Florida's East Coast, where Dorian will likely be a threat next week.

Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, said: "Please, please heed the warning".

Dorian is expected to bring strong winds and rains with it with 6-10 inches of rain possible for the region, according to early predictions by NOAA.

NHC officials warned that Hurricane Dorian's path could change. However, these fluctuations will probably maintain the storm's overall intensity between Category 4 and Category 5 status, rather than providing a more substantial weakening.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 180mph.

But Jack Pittard, a 76-year-old American who has been traveling to the Bahamas for 40 years, said he had made a decision to ride out the storm in the Abaco Islands.

Millions of USA coastal dwellers from Florida to the Carolinas are keeping a wary eye on Dorian's approach.

In Pennsylvania 16 people have already been deployed to the Carolina's, Georgia and Florida in the event the storm moves.

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.

Hundreds of people hunkered down in schools, churches and other shelters as officials recognized there were not many structures on higher ground on the largely flat archipelago just southeast of Florida.

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