TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Hurricane Dorian became a Category 2 storm Thursday evening, strengthening as it slowly moves its way through the Atlantic.
The National Hurricane Center's latest data showed "substantial timing differences" with the storm's path and possible arrival on the US East Coast. NHC said Dorian's path will become clearer as the storm interacts with a mid-level ridge over the southeastern United States.
Hurricane Dorian was located 295 miles ENE of the southeastern Bahamas. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, and moving NW at 12 miles per hour.
Forecasts initially suggested a late Sunday landfall, with the hurricane barreling through the state. Now, Dorian could arrive on U.S. land as late as Monday evening and models show the storm could be over the state for days.
The extra time over the Atlantic will give the storm even more of a chance to strengthen -- the Hurricane Center says Dorian could become a major Category 4 hurricane before making landfall.
A high pressure system northeast of Florida will be the deciding factor on the storm's timing and track, Osterberg explained.
“A stronger high pressure…will push the storm south of the Melbourne area,” he said. “A weaker high will bring it up toward southern Georgia, Jacksonville area. That’s actually where the GFS [forecast model] has it going. But all the rest of [the models] bring it down here [to central-south Florida].”
Category 4 storms can have winds as high as 156 mph, pushing significant storm surge. Those living in and around the hurricane center’s will see the highest rainfall totals.
Now that it appears Dorian is moving slower, Labor Day weather in Tampa Bay will be normal, other than the typical thunderstorms, Osterberg explained. What happens after that depends on how strong the high pressure system is northeast of Florida, but those in the Bay Area should prepare for heavy rainfall and gusty winds, just to be safe.
“What would happen if it slows down? It would be over water longer – which is obviously bad – and bring more rainfall for the state,” Osterberg said, “but it would also allow for that big huge area of high pressure to move a little bit and that would start to turn it to the north. So, does it turn to the north when it hits the coast? When it’s in the middle of the state? That makes a huge difference for us.”
Hurricane Irma’s last-minute turn into the interior counties in 2017 is a fair reminder that anything can happen to a storm’s track. Computer models by forecasters are based on the latest conditions, and as conditions change, so do those models.
Those models are used to generalize a path and intensity of a storm, and four or five-day track forecasts can have significant errors, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored.
“We don’t have all the answers,” Osterberg said. “It just looks like it’s headed into the state. The big question is how strong is it when it makes landfall and how fast does it get out of the state. Right now, the models are slowing this down.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis extended yesterday's state of emergency to all counties in the state, and the price-gouging hotline was activated statewide.
Meanwhile, the weekend football game between Boise State and Florida State, planned for Saturday night in Jacksonville, will be moved to Tallahassee and scheduled for 12 p.m. in hopes of avoiding the worst of the storm.
Hurricane Dorian preparations by county:
- Citrus County
- DeSoto County
- Hardee County
- Hernando County
- Highlands County
- Hillsborough County
- Manatee County
- Pasco County
- Pinellas County
- Polk County
- Sarasota County
- Sumter County