Hurricane Dorian nears Category 3 strength
Miami, Aug 31 (IANS) Dorian has strengthened slightly in recent hours and is expected to become a major hurricane while slowly moving over the Atlantic Ocean toward Florida.
The United States National Hurricane Center said in its latest bulletin at 8 a.m. local (Miami) time on Friday that data from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft indicate that Dorian's maximum sustained winds have increased to nearly 175 km (110 miles) per hour, or nearly Category 3 strength, Efe news reported.
Dorian is moving toward the northwest at around 19 km/h, and this motion is expected to continue throughout the day on Friday, the Miami-based NHC said.
"Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) later (Friday)," the bulletin said. "Dorian is likely to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula through the weekend."
Meteorologists say the hurricane's slow forward movement is allowing it to become more tightly organised as it churns over warm waters.
The NHC said the hurricane is currently located 410 km east-northeast of the southeastern Bahamas and 815 km east of the northwestern part of that Atlantic archipelago.
Florida, where a state-wide state of emergency has been declared, is bracing for flooding, strong winds, storm surge and even a phenomenon known as a "king tide," a twice-yearly unusually high tide that has nothing to do with the hurricane but could coincide with its arrival.
Dorian is forecast to move over the Atlantic well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas on Friday before approaching the northwestern islands, cays and islets of that archipelago on Saturday and moving near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday, the bulletin said.
Up to 30 cm (12 inches) of rain are expected to fall in the northwestern Bahamas and coastal sections of the southeastern US, according to the NHC, which said some areas may even receive as much as 38 cm of rainfall.
It added that these torrential downpours could trigger life-threatening flash floods.
Four other weather systems have intensified to at least tropical storm strength during the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, which began in June and technically ends on Nov. 30.
One of them, Barry, became a Category 1 hurricane shortly before making landfall on July 13 in Louisiana, where it caused as much as $900 million in property damage but no fatalities.