Hurricane Dorian strengthens to 'extremely dangerous' Category 3 storm

Hurricane Dorian became a potentially devastating Category 3 storm on Friday as it continued to churn in the Atlantic Ocean on its course to the southeastern United States early next week, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm's maximum sustained winds increased to 115 mph Friday afternoon, the center said, pushing it to Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

As of midmorning Friday, Dorian was about 445 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas and was expected to move over the Atlantic north of the southeastern and central Bahamas on Friday. It was then expected to move near or over parts of the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday and be near the Florida peninsula late Monday, the center said.

"Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week," the center said.

The storm has the potential to become an extremely dangerous Category 4 over the next several days and was forecast to reach top winds of up to 140 mph in the next 72 hours.

Dorian could be the first Category 4 or higher hurricane to make landfall on Florida's east coast since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew was blamed for 44 deaths in the state. Anything at Category 3 or above is considered a major hurricane.

The center said life-threatening storm surge would raise water levels as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide in parts of the northwestern Bahamas, with "large and destructive waves" near the coast.

The storm was expected to produce 6 to 12 inches of rain, with isolated areas receiving as 18 inches in the northwestern Bahamas and coastal southeast United States.

Hurricane conditions were possible in the Bahamas by Sunday, the center said.

"It's going to be this big, bad, intense storm — wherever it hits, it's going to do catastrophic wind damage," said Bill Karins, a meteorologist for NBC News.

Related: Hurricane Dorian 

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This Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 image provided by NASA shows a view of Hurricane Dorian from the International Space Station as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico. Leaving mercifully little damage in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Dorian swirled toward the U.S., with forecasters warning it will draw energy from the warm, open waters as it closes in. (NASA via AP)
Store shelves are empty of bottled water as residents buy supplies in preparation for Hurricane Dorian, in Doral, Fla., Thursday, July 29, 2019. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Dorian could hit the Florida coast over the weekend as a major hurricane. (AP Photo/Marcus Lim)
Shoppers prepare ahead of Hurricane Dorian at The Home Depot on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Empty shelves are seen with a sign at Costco stating that the retailer is currently sold out of water ahead of Hurricane Dorian on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, left, looks on as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks about Tropical Storm Dorian outside of the the National Hurricane Center, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
This GOES-16 satellite image taken Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, at 14:20 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, right, moving over open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Dorian was expected to grow into a potentially devastating Category 3 hurricane before hitting the U.S. mainland late Sunday or early Monday somewhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia. (NOAA via AP)
Shoppers wait in long lines at Costco, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Davie, Fla., as they stock up on supplies ahead of Hurricane Dorian. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - AUGUST 30: People walk to their boat through a flooded parking lot at the Haulover Marine Center before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian on August 30, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. The high water was due to King tide which may cause additional problems as Hurricane Dorian arrives in the area as a possible Category 4 storm along the Florida coast. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - AUGUST 30: Weston Rice drives through a flooded parking lot as he prepares to drop his jet ski into the water at the Haulover Marine Center before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian on August 30, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. The high water was due to King tide which may cause additional problems as Hurricane Dorian arrives in the area as a possible Category 4 storm along the Florida coast. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A man stands on a store's roof as he works to prepare it for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Hurricane Dorian intensified yet again Sunday as it closed in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter islands with Category 5-strength winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
This GOES-16 satellite image taken Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at 17:00 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, right, churning over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Dorian struck the northern Bahamas on Sunday as a catastrophic Category 5 storm, its 185 mph winds ripping off roofs and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered in schools, churches and other shelters. (NOAA via AP)
President Donald Trump, left, listens as Kenneth Graham, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, on screen, gives an update during a briefing about Hurricane Dorian at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Washington, at right of Trump is Acting Administrator Pete Gaynor, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Neil Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing about Hurricane Dorian at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Washington, as Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
People walk on a largely deserted beach of the Atlantic Ocean on the barrier island in Vero Beach, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. The barrier island is under a voluntary evacuation today and a mandatory evacuation tomorrow in preparation for the possibility of Hurricane Dorian making landfall. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
RIVIERA BEACH, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 1: Workers place shutters over the windows of a Food Mart store as the owner prepares just in case Hurricane Dorian hits the area on September 1, 2019 in Riviera Beach, Florida. Dorian was projected to make landfall along the Florida coast but now projections have it making a sharp turn to the north as it closes in on Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Tree branches are seen in the road during the approach of Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas. - Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Sunday, packing 160 mph (267 kph) winds as it was about to slam into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, US weather forecasters said."#Dorian is now a category 5 #hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a tweet. "The eyewall of this catastrophic hurricane is about to hit the Abaco Islands with devastating winds," it said.The slow moving storm was expected to linger over the Bahamas through Sunday and much of Monday, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and unleashing storm surges of 10 to 15-feet, forecasters said. (Photo by Lucy WORBOYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUCY WORBOYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Tree branches are seen in the road during the approach of Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas. - Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Sunday, packing 160 mph (267 kph) winds as it was about to slam into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, US weather forecasters said."#Dorian is now a category 5 #hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a tweet. "The eyewall of this catastrophic hurricane is about to hit the Abaco Islands with devastating winds," it said.The slow moving storm was expected to linger over the Bahamas through Sunday and much of Monday, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and unleashing storm surges of 10 to 15-feet, forecasters said. (Photo by Lucy WORBOYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUCY WORBOYS/AFP/Getty Images)
The entrance to Wambasso Beach County Park is closed in Wambasso Beach, Florida on September 1, 2019, ahead of Hurricane Dorian. - Hurricane Dorian unleashed "catastrophic conditions" as it hit the northern Bahamas, lashing the low-lying island chain with devastating 180 mph (285 kph) winds, the most intense in its modern history. Florida residents, meanwhile, were bracing for a potentially dangerous brush with the storm as it slowly turns north after passing the Bahamas. (Photo by Adam DelGiudice / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADAM DELGIUDICE/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump receives a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) on Hurricane Dorian in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2019. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump receives a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) on Hurricane Dorian in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2019. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - SEPTEMBER 1: In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image, Hurricane Dorian, now a Cat. 5 storm, tracks towards the Florida coast taken at 13:20Z September 1, 2019 in the Atlantic Ocean. A hurricane warning is in effect for much of the northwestern Bahamas as it gets hit with 175 mph winds. According to the National Hurricane Center Dorian is predicted to hit the U.S. as a Category 4 storm. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
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“There is an increasing likelihood of a prolonged period of hazardous weather conditions that could last for a couple of days in parts of Florida early next week,” the center said.

Life-threatening storm surge and “devastating hurricane-force winds” along portions of Florida’s east coast were likely by early next week, but it was too soon to determine where the hardest hit areas would be, the center said.

The storm was forecast to slow down near or over the Florida peninsula, leading to more days of wind, rain and storm surge, the center said.

"A prolonged period of storm surge, high winds and rainfall is likely in portions of Florida into next week, including the possibility of hurricane-force winds over inland portions of the Florida peninsula," the center said.

It is too soon to tell exactly when the storm would make its U.S. landfall, but the hurricane center warned of an increasing likelihood of "life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast late this weekend or early next week." Six to 12 inches of rain is also expected in the U.S., with some areas getting up to 15 inches. The rainfall may cause flash floods.

On Friday morning, President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration request for Florida that the state's Gov. Ron DeSantis had expanded across the entire state on Thursday.

DeSantis said during a news conference Friday that Florida will implement highway patrol escorts for trucks to refuel gas stations that have sold out of fuel and that state agencies will be spot checking nursing homes before and after the storm.

"This is a major event. We still have some degree of uncertainty, but I think if you look at the different forecasts, you see potential major impacts from places in South Florida potentially going all the way up the coast of Florida," he said.

He also previously said that about 2,500 members of Florida's National Guard had been activated, with another 1,500 on standby.

Meanwhile, shopping center parking lots were filled with Florida residents on Thursday, stocking up on supplies ahead of the storm.

Earlier, Trump called off his planned trip to Poland over the weekend to oversee the response to Dorian.

In a video posted from the White House on Thursday night, Trump said: "We're ready. We have the best people in the world ready, and they're going to help you."

Trump said that "somebody said" that Dorian would be "bigger or at least as big as Andrew," which caused more than $25 billion in damage in 1992.

Andrew was assessed as Category 5, with sustained winds of 175 mph. The National Hurricane Center says Dorian might reach Category 4, for which the wind range tops out at 156 mph.

The hurricane swept by the Virgin Islands and Puerto Ricoas a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday with few casualties and little confirmed damage.

 

 
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