TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Hurricane Dorian continued its slow trek towards Florida on Saturday, where forecasters were growing increasingly confident that powerful storm will turn to the north – possibly keeping the worst weather offshore entirely.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for portions of Florida's east coast, from Deerfield Beach to Sebastian.
As of the 11 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Dorian's winds remained steady at 150 mph. The storm was about 310 miles east of West Palm Beach, heading west at only 8 mph. Meteorologists say there is good agreement in the forecast models that the storm will keep heading west-northwest for about 48 hours until it's near the Bahamas, but that's when the uncertainty begins.
More and more forecast models are suggesting that Dorian will turn north at the point, just in time to avoid a landfall in Florida. The official National Hurricane Center track reflects that, but they warned Floridians not to let their guard down yet.
"It should be noted that the new forecast track does not preclude Dorian making landfall on the Florida coast, as large portions of the coast remain in the track cone of uncertainty," the NHC update noted. "Also, significant impacts could occur even if the center stays offshore."
"Even if the eye does stay off, we are still looking at some incredible impacts all along the east coast depending on how far away it is because those hurricane-force winds extend outwards 30 miles," agreed FOX 13 meteorologist Brittany Rainey. "They're still looking at hurricane-force winds and they're also going to be dealing with that storm surge – all that water piling up as the storm heads up the east coast."
Based on the current track, the storm is expected be pushing a lot of water into Florida. Storm surge projections, even if Dorian stays offshore, are as high as 18 feet for the state's east coast.
With the forecast track changing, the likelihood of hurricane-force winds in the Tampa Bay area is going down. Even the probability of tropical storm force winds – 39 mph or higher – is under 50 percent for the Bay Area, though the inland counties have a higher chance, again depending on the timing of that turn.
"We do still have to be prepared and just hope that we continue to see that shifting off to the east, but there's still that potential for it to ride right up the state," Brittany added.
Meanwhile, forecasters were watching a tropical wave coming off Africa that is expected to strengthen into a tropical depression next week.