‘As frightening an eye as you will ever see’: Very close call for Florida as Hurricane Dorian looms off the coast

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AccuWeather Global Weather Center – September 2, 2019 – Hurricane Dorian strengthened to a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane on Sunday morning before making three landfalls in the northern Bahamas. Dorian made its first landfall on Elbow Cay in the Bahamas, at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts over 220 mph. A second landfall occurred shortly thereafter over Marsh Harbour, on the island of Great Abaco, with the same intensity. The third landfall occurred along the eastern shores of Grand Bahama Island late Sunday evening. Dorian continued to produce category 5 strength, with winds topping 180 mph.The National Hurricane Center said Dorian was the strongest hurricane in modern record-keeping for the northwestern Bahamas and it was tied for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

The powerful storm continued blasting the Bahamas into Monday morning, becoming nearly stationary as it moved at 1 mph. But Dorian may spare the eastern coast of Florida a direct hit by a very close margin. Impacts along the Florida coast will still be damaging even without a landfalling hurricane.The hurricane has made the westward turn forecasters had been predicting, but the turn to the north is becoming more likely to occur before it reaches the east coast of Florida. And the storm looked forbidding in satellite imagery.

“The eye is as frightening an eye as you will ever see,” AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Reyno said discussing the latest infrared satellite images to come in on Sunday night. “In fact, it is almost a perfect circle.”Fluctuations in strength are possible through early week due to internal processes of hurricanes, such as eyewall replacement cycles, and crossing over the northern Bahamas.The hurricane is forecast to slow its forward speed and may even stall east of Florida on Monday.

This crawl is expected to give a non-tropical storm from the Midwest time to begin to tug on Dorian and pull it northward and then northeastward later Monday into Tuesday. This should be enough to allow a glancing blow on Florida, rather than a direct hit, similar to Hurricane Matthew in 2016.However, while Florida may avoid a hurricane that rams inland with widespread, severe damage, there will be other consequences of the revised path of the mighty storm.

Devastation over the northern Bahamas

The slow crawl across the northern Bahamas will be devastating. Instead of a period of 6-12 hours of hurricane-force winds, pounding surf and storm surge inundation, these conditions may last more than 24 hours in some locations on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.”People on Grand Bahama and Abaco in the Bahamas can expect major damage, widespread power outages and a loss of most other utilities,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.”Dangerous flash flooding, as well as storm surge flooding can cause low-lying areas and lower levels of some structures to be submerged for a number of hours,” he added.An AccuWeather StormMax™ of 30 inches is forecast over the northern Bahamas. A general 4-8 inches of rain in store along the southeast US Atlantic coast with an AccuWeather StormMax™ of 15 inches.Impacts farther south will be significantly less on Eleuthera, New Providence and Andros Island in the Bahamas.

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Dorian likely to just graze Florida east coast, but landfall still possible

While conditions have changed to cause a hurricane track that keeps the eye offshore of the east coast of Florida, there is still some risk for a shift farther west.The storm from the Midwest may move so quickly into the Northeast states on Monday, that it may leave Dorian behind, in which case the hurricane would have to wait for another ride from a second non-tropical storm from the Midwest on Wednesday. However, the latter scenario is the least likely at this point.People along the Florida east coast, north of West Palm Beach to Jacksonville Beach, should prepare for hurricane conditions, including the risk of property damage, coastal flooding, flooding from heavy rainfall, beach erosion, large waves and loss of power.

Click on these links for Historical Hurricane Graphics:Historical graphic featuring strongest hurricanes in Atlantic basin:http://pro.accuweather.com/adcbin/professional/uggfx/page.htm?gfxcode=hd27 

Historical graphic featuring most intense hurricanes at landfall (pressure):http://pro.accuweather.com/adcbin/professional/uggfx/page.htm?gfxcode=hd28 

Historical graphic featuring most intense hurricanes at landfall (wind speed):http://pro.accuweather.com/adcbin/professional/uggfx/page.htm?gfxcode=hd30

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