Hurricane Dorian may have weakened from Category 5 to Category 2, but experts say the storm is growing in size as it moves “dangerously close” to Florida and other coasts throughout the week.
Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas on Sunday and lingered in the area for over 36 hours, packing deadly floodwaters, heavy rain and fierce winds, the Washington Post reported. Now, the storm is threatening the Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina coasts even if it doesn’t make landfall there, the National Hurricane Center said.
“Anybody who is assuming it’s not coming to them because it could go anywhere is making a huge mistake,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told CNN. “You have to assume the worst. Hope for the best, but assume the worst.”
The National Hurricane Center announced on Tuesday that Dorian will slowly move north, close to the Florida east coast through Wednesday, and pass near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday before going “near or over” the North Carolina coast on Thursday. North Carolina could see hurricane-force winds and the Florida coast could experience flash flooding.
“Hurricane #Dorian is one of the strongest storms that’s ever threatened Florida. If you live in a county with evacuation orders, please heed the call,” Florida Gov. Ron Desantis tweeted on Sunday. He warned earlier that day: “If you live along the East Coast, please be prepared, gather your supplies and be ready to evacuate if ordered.”
After remaining stationary in the Bahamas for several hours, Dorian is finally moving northwestward as a Category 2 storm but has grown in size, according to an advisory from the Center on Tuesday. Although the storm has weakened, its hurricane-force winds reach 60 miles from its center and tropical-storm-force winds extend out 175 miles, according to the advisory.
The storm only began moving out of the Bahamas on Tuesday. It had stalled because winds in the upper atmosphere were too calm, the Associated Press reported. While the Bahamas bore the brunt of the destructive storm, the calm steering currents could prove beneficial for Florida.
“This is unprecedented,” Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground, told the AP. “We’ve never had a Category 5 stall for so long in the Atlantic hurricane record.”
Five people have been confirmed dead in the Bahamas, including an 8-year-old boy who likely drowned as his family fled the storm in the Abaco Islands over the weekend. The storm damaged or destroyed several homes and businesses in the Bahamas, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a recent news conference. By the time Dorian departs completely from the area, parts of the Bahamas will have seen more than 30 inches of rain, according to CNN.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” Minnis said, according to the New York Times. “Our focus is search, rescue and recovery. I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders.”
“I ask everyone in Hurricane Dorian’s path to heed all warnings and evacuation orders from local authorities,” Trump said. “We want to minimize any unnecessary risk to the public.”