MIAMI, Florida - A state of emergency has been declared across the state of Florida, pending the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which is expected to become a highly dangerous and deadly Category 4 storm over the weekend before hitting the Atlantic coast.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took the decision as emergency steps were being taken throughout the state. Bags of sand are being issued to residents, airlines have begun cancelling flights, and precautions are being taken at Space launching stations.
"At 11:00am AST, the center of Hurricane Dorian was located near latitude 21.4 North, longitude 67.2 West. Dorian is moving toward the northwest near 13 mph (20 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through Friday," the latest advisory from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said on Thursday.
"A west-northwestward motion is forecast to begin by Friday night and continue into the weekend. On this track, Dorian should move over the Atlantic well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas today and on Friday, approach the northwestern Bahamas Saturday, and move near or over portions of the northwest Bahamas on Sunday."
"Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph (140 km/h) with higher gusts. Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday, and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles (150 km)," said the advisory.
"The minimum central pressure based on data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 986 mb (29.12 inches). Dorian is expected to produce the following rainfall accumulations this weekend into early next week: The central Bahamas...1 to 2 inches, isolated 4 inches. The northwestern Bahamas...3 to 6 inches, isolated 8 inches. Coastal sections of the Southeast United States...4 to 8 inches, isolated 12 inches."
"This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods. Swells around the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico should gradually diminish today. Swells are likely to begin affecting the east-facing shores of the Bahamas and the southeastern United States coast during the next few days. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please consult products from your local weather office," advised the National Hurricane Centre.
"All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts," DeSantis said in a statement. "As it increases strength, this storm has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant. Do not wait until it is too late to make a plan."
The governor had previously declared a state of emergency for 26 counties but later Thursday extended it to the whole of Florida.
"Hurricane Dorian looks like it will be hitting Florida late Sunday night," U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted. "Be prepared and please follow State and Federal instructions, it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!"
Here you can view Hurricane Dorian as it was seen by the International Space Station at 1.05pm on Thursday as it swept over the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico: