Hurricane Dorian is a dangerous Category 4 hurricane — and heading toward the Bahamas and Southeast US

After skirting by Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Hurricane Dorian is gaining intensity and has its sights set on the Bahamas and, possibly, both Florida and the Southeast coast of the United States. And, increasingly, there are risks of impacts through Georgia and South and North Carolina by the middle of next week.

The storm currently is sustaining 150 mph winds, which make it an extremely dangerous Category 4 “major” hurricane. (Major hurricanes are Category 3 and higher.)

A hurricane warning is currently in effect for the northwestern Bahamas (meaning hurricane conditions are imminent). The storm could hit late there this weekend through Monday, and bring with it 10-to-15 feet of storm surge, and 10-to-25 inches of rain, creating an extremely dangerous, life-threatening situation. In the Bahamas, “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the National Hurricane Center warns.

After that, it’s still not known, exactly, where Dorian will strike the US. Impacts are possible along the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas. The NHC issued a tropical storm watch for portions of the Florida coast, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible within the next few days. It’s also possible that the storm will stall or slow down along the coast, prolonging the region’s exposure to hurricane conditions.

“Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials,” the NHC advises.

Tropical storm-force winds might reach Florida by Sunday.

National Hurricane Center

Much of the impact on Florida, though, is still uncertain. “Since Dorian is forecast to slow down and turn northward as it approaches the coast, life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds are still possible along portions of the Florida east coast by the early to middle part of next week,” the NHC reports.

A chart describing storms labeled Category 1 (winds up to 95 miles per hour, isolated injuries) through Category 5 (winds above 155 mph, extreme flooding). Zachary Crockett/Vox

But the risks of a major hurricane extend well beyond the wind. The storm could bring several inches of rain or more for parts of Florida and the Southeast. Here’s the latest rain forecast:


National Hurricane Center

Plus, the deadliest aspect of a hurricane tends to be storm surge (flooding caused by seawater pushed onshore by the hurricane’s winds). The NHC doesn’t yet have a forecast for storm surge for Florida, but it warns life-threatening floods are possible.

It’s also possible the storm won’t make landfall in the state: The NHC forecast models have shifted a bit to the East, keeping Dorian off the coast, for now. Dorian remaining off the coasts would still present a dangerous situation, with rough surf, high winds, and rain, but not the worst case scenario. Again, it’s still not exactly known where Dorian will land. So keep an eye on reports.

To prepare for all these threats, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency, freeing up resources to prep for the storm.

Here’s the latest forecast map from the NHC:

And here are the key messages the National Hurricane Center wants the public to know:

1. A prolonged period of life-threatening storm surge, devastating hurricane-force winds, and heavy rains capable of life-threatening flash floods are expected on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Sunday through Monday, and a hurricane warning is in effect for these areas.

2. A tropical storm watch is in effect for a portion of the Florida east coast. Since Dorian is forecast to slow down and turn northward as it approaches the coast, life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds are still possible along portions of the Florida east coast by the early to middle part of next week. Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.

3. There is an increasing risk of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during the middle of next week. Residents in these areas should continue to monitor the progress of Dorian.

4. Heavy rains, capable of life-threatening flash floods, are possible over coastal sections of the southeastern United States from Sunday through much of next week.

It’s still a few days out, so remember: Forecasts can change. The good news is there’s still a lot of time to prepare.

How to follow Dorian:

  • The National Hurricane Center has a page updating every few hours with the latest watches and warnings for Dorian. Check it out.
  • Follow the National Hurricane Center on Twitter.
  • Follow the Capital Weather Gang’s Twitter account. These folks tend to live-tweet storm updates.
  • Here’s a Twitter list of weather experts, who will give you up-to-the-second forecasts and warnings.