Update 11 p.m.: Hurricane Dorian continued to strengthen rapidly Friday night, swelling into a powerful Category 4 storm as it churned across the Atlantic toward Florida.
But the possibility that Palm Beach County may avoid a direct hit improved in the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m forecast.
The center line of Dorian’s latest projected path has it grazing Brevard County as a Category 3 storm Tuesday night, then veering north off the coast of northeast Florida.
That’s a significant change from Friday morning, when the forecast’s center line pointed squarely at Palm Beach County and meteorologists predicted Dorian would strike as a Category 4 storm.
>>> Hurricane Dorian: Local questions and answers
The northward shift in the forecast comes amid new indications that a high-pressure ridge preventing the storm from moving north may experience “more significant weakness” than expected, the National Hurricane Center said.
The weakening of the mid-Atlantic ridge “allows Dorian to turn northwestward, then northward near the east coast of Florida,” forecasters said in the 11 p.m. forecast.
But the hurricane center warned that the storm’s center path is an uncertain one and that any area in the cone of possibility is at risk.
“Although the official forecast track has been nudged northeastward to near the east coast of Florida the risk of significant impacts over much of the Florida peninsula remains high,” the forecast said.
Even as its track shifted, the storm continued to strengthen Friday night.
Sustained winds rose to a reported 140 miles per hour in the new advisory, a 25 mph jump in six hours.
Dorian is moving at 10 mph, slightly slower than on Thursday, along a western-northwestern path 545 miles east of West Palm Beach.
Update 8:30 p.m.: Hurricane Dorian strengthened Friday evening into a Category 4 storm on its march across the Atlantic toward Florida’s east coast.
The National Hurricane Center’s 8:30 p.m. advisory showed the storm’s maximum sustained winds rising to 130 miles per hour, a 15 mph increase since the previous advisory 3 1/2 hours earlier.
The storm is moving at 10 mph, slightly slower than on Thursday, along a western-northwestern path 575 miles east of West Palm Beach.
The center line of Dorian’s forecast track calls for it to make landfall north of Fort Pierce Tuesday, but forecasters warn that the center path is an uncertain one and that any area in the cone of possibility is at risk.
Dorian is expected to continue strengthening over the weekend and hit Florida’s coast Tuesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm with 140 mph sustained winds.
While the storm is not expected to make landfall until Tuesday, Palm Beach County is forecast to begin experiencing tropical storm-force winds on Sunday.
“Additional strengthening is forecast,” the hurricane center warned, “and Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week.”
A hurricane warning is in effect for all of the northwestern Bahamas except Andros Island, which is under a hurricane watch.
A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in the area within 36 hours, while areas under a hurricane watch may experience hurricane conditions within 48 hours.
Update 5 p.m.: Hurricane Dorian remains a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds.
As of 5 p.m., it was about 595 miles east of West Palm Beach heading west-northwest at 9 mph.
A hurricane warning is now in effect for the northwestern Bahamas excluding Andros Island, which is under a hurricane watch.
The latest satellite images show an organizing Dorian with a distinct eye surrounded by a ring of very deep convection.
The slow down in forward speed triggered changes to the track and timing of the burgeoning system that grew to the season’s first major hurricane when sustained winds reached 115 mph, making it a Category 3 storm.
The center of the forecast cone late Friday was targeting St. Lucie County – a significant shift from earlier in the day when a bullseye was squarely painted on Palm Beach County, and a reminder the squirrelly storm needs close watching through the holiday weened.
“We are worried about hurricane fatigue,” said Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami. “People may let their guard down and that’s the challenge of this situation. This storm is taking time to evolve and, unfortunately, may take some time to get out of the area once its here.”
Late Friday, Dorian was 595 miles east of West Palm Beach moving west-northwest. Minimum central pressure was 970 mb. A hurricane warning was in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence. A hurricane watch was in effect for Andros Island.
If the forecast track from Friday holds true, Dorian’s center would come ashore near Fort Pierce as a major hurricane with 140 mph sustained winds and 165 mph gusts. It would then take a sharp right, hugging the coast as Category 3 or Category 2 hurricane through St. Johns County.
But the track has been jumpy all week, moving from Cape Canaveral to West Palm Beach and north again.
“There is a 20 percent chance that it could miss Florida, but that’s still an 80 percent chance that it will hit it,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, an IBM business. “If I lived in Florida, I would be hesitant to go anywhere at this point until the track narrows.”
Update, 2 p.m.: Hurricane Dorian has upgraded to a Category 3 storm as it makes its way to Florida’s eastern coastline.
In the latest update from the National Weather service, forecasters say the hurricane has sustained winds of 115 mph with higher gusts as it continues to move northwest in the Atlantic Ocean at 10 mph.
Update, 11 a.m. Hurricane Dorian is slowing its roll but continues to threaten to barrel into Florida’s coast with a Category 4 assault early Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reported at its 11 a.m. update.
The center line of the morning’s forecast takes aim at the border of Palm Beach and Martin counties, but that is no guarantee that’s where Dorian will make landfall, with all of the state’s coast in the cone of probability.
With the slow down in forward speed, the earliest South Florida could feel tropical storm-force winds is early Sunday morning, with Central and North Florida feeling them later in the afternoon and evening. The most likely arrival time of winds is late Sunday for southeast Florida and as late as Monday night for North Florida.
Meteorologists said their biggest concern will be Dorian’s sluggish crawl as it nears 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.“
National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg said models are in good agreement through Sunday on where Dorian will track, but there is more spread as Tuesday and Wednesday approach.
Here are the 5 AM AST/EDT August 30 Key Messages for Hurricane #Dorian. A prolonged period of hazardous weather conditions that could last for a couple of days is possible across parts of Florida early next week. Visit https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB for more info. pic.twitter.com/5n4nGwYNfB
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 30, 2019
Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to visit the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center at 11:30 a.m.
At 11 a.m., Dorian is a Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds – just below Category 3 strength. That is expected to change soon as wind shear reduces and the storm intensifies into a major Category 3 hurricane.
The storm is about 660 miles east of West Palm Beach, traveling northwest at 10 mph. The minimum central pressure is 972 mb.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from Dorian’s center. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the northwestern Bahamas, which means tropical storm force winds are expected in that area within 48 hours.
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Tropical storm or hurricane watches could be possible for areas of Florida later Friday.
National Hurricane Center Ken Graham stressed that Dorian is a not just a coastal problem. The dangerous storm is expected to maintain major hurricane strength deep inland before making a right turn.
The center of the forecast cone cuts through Orlando with winds of about 75 mph – Category 1 strength.
Graham said the storm could slow to 4 mph as it reaches the coast.
“That means more rain, longer winds for a longer period of time,” Graham said. “You have a longer onshore flow, which means more of a potential push of water inland.”
Palm Beach County declared a state of emergency Thursday, while Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded the statewide state of emergency to all 67 Florida counties.
As of Thursday afternoon, no Palm Beach County evacuations had been ordered and no shelters had opened.
Forecast track errors at five days out are nearly 230 miles. That shrinks to 173 miles at four days and 117 miles at three days. By two days before a strike, the error rate is just 62 miles.
“There is uncertainty in the track because the models are having trouble deciding this far out how strong the major players – the Bermuda High to the north and an upper level low to the west – are going to be,” said Erik Salna, a meteorologist and associate director of Florida International University’s Extreme Events Institute. “The models are saying they know the story until Sunday, then we don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s not what anyone wants to hear.”
#Florida landfall forecast for Hurricane #Dorian (as a Category 4 storm) continue to shift south. Visit @NHC_Atlantic for the latest info on watches, warnings and key messages at https://t.co/AGvxTjm45H pic.twitter.com/ouLMYiEFen
— UW-Madison CIMSS (@UWCIMSS) August 30, 2019
But meteorologists are certain Floridians are in for a rough ride.
“Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend,” the hurricane center’s forecasters warned.
With each forecast, Dorian’s arrival has been pushed back. Once expected mid-Labor Day weekend, this morning’s update has Dorian still offshore at 2 a.m. Monday with 140 mph winds and arriving 24 hours later – early Tuesday morning.
While storms can buzz-saw through the state, Dorian is expected to linger, turning north after coming ashore. The forecast puts the cyclone in Central Florida as a Category 1 Wednesday.
South Florida can expect to see tropical storm conditions with winds of 39 mph or greater by Sunday morning. Those conditions will blanket the peninsula by evening and reach the Panhandle by Monday as Dorian approaches the east coast.
“The situation is becoming increasingly dangerous and life-threatening,” National Weather Service meteorologists in Melbourne wrote in a morning forecast. “Hurricane Dorian is placing all east central Florida at risk.”