All of Florida on Alert as Hurricane Dorian Continues to Strengthen

Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a briefing regarding Hurricane Dorian to the media at National Hurricane Center on August 29.
Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a briefing regarding Hurricane Dorian to the media at National Hurricane Center on August 29. Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui / Getty Images
The likelihood that Hurricane Dorian will make hit the Sunshine State is increasing. The storm is now predicted to make landfall on Florida's east coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Labor Day, according to the National Hurricane Center's latest projections, released at 5 p.m.

Gov. Ron DeSantis updated Florida's state of emergency Thursday to include all 67 counties after visiting the National Hurricane Center in Miami for a full briefing.

Dorian intensified quickly Wednesday as it moved past the Virgin Islands, and hurricane hunters located the eye of the storm that evening. Dorian remains steady as a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane with wind speeds of up to 85 mph, but there are no major impediments to the storm as it continues on a northwest track toward the southeastern United States.

The slow-moving storm, working its way across exceptionally warm Atlantic waters of 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, could reach speeds of 135 mph or more, potentially devastating the Sunshine State. Tropical-storm-force winds could begin as soon as Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Parts of Miami are already flooding due to a convergence of heavy rainfall and king tides, days before Dorian's predicted landfall. Even if Miami-Dade County avoids the major impacts of hurricane-force winds, flooding will still be a major concern.

"There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast late this weekend or early next week, although it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge will occur," the 5 p.m. advisory stated.
A slow-moving hurricane like Dorian increases the chances of a high storm surge due to the longer likelihood of heavy rainfall. High-speed winds can also cause shoreline erosion and uproot trees that protect Florida's coastline. The angle a storm takes also affects storm surge, and hurricanes that hit the coastline at a perpendicular angle (as Dorian is expected to do) can cause the oceans to swell.

There have been eight Category 4 or 5 hurricanes to make landfall on the east coast of Florida since 1900. The most recent was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. If Dorian does strike Monday, it will be the first hurricane to hit Florida on the federal holiday since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that made landfall 18 years before Atlantic storms were named. The Labor Day hurricane killed more than 250 World War I veterans, causing Ernest Hemingway to write a scathing article attacking the federal government.
Photo by National Hurricane Center

Spaghetti and Spaghettios

Climate models predict Hurricane Dorian can take a number of paths. Ocean and atmospheric conditions are not static, so it's still too early to know for certain exactly where the storm will make landfall. The United States GFS model still estimates a landfall on the Central Florida coast, but the European model predicts a more southern route. It all depends upon a ridge of high atmospheric pressure building in the Atlantic Ocean that will direct the storm's route, potentially making landfall in Florida likelier.

"On Friday, the ridge is forecast to begin building westward to the north of the cyclone, and this pattern is expected to cause the hurricane to turn west-northwestward," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated in its latest advisory. "A west-northwestward to westward motion should then continue into the weekend with Dorian moving near or over the northwestern Bahamas and toward the Florida peninsula."

NOAA's hurricane hunters — including the first all-female reconnaissance crew — continue to gather information to incorporate into the National Hurricane Center's predictions. Although the storm is still four days away, the entire state still remains within Dorian's cone of concern.

Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst

Floridians have already begun prepping for Hurricane Dorian's arrival. There have been reports of long lines at gas stations and grocery stores. Lines have also begun forming for sandbags, many of which are being filled via free inmate labor. Community emergency operation centers — command centers that store supplies needed to prepare and recover from natural disasters — have been set up in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The Miami Climate Alliance says volunteers are needed and donations are still being accepted at the Circle of Brotherhood in Miami (5120 NW 24th Ave.) and the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale (1009 NW Fourth St.).

Miami-Dade public schools will still be in session tomorrow, although night school after 6 p.m. has been canceled. All athletic activities scheduled for this weekend have also been canceled by the Miami-Dade School District. No announcement has been made yet about whether students may return to their classrooms Tuesday.

The Miami Yacht Club has warned its members that boats should be moved to a safe location, and the City of Miami notified electric scooter companies that scooters must leave Miami's streets by noon Friday so they do not become projectiles in hurricane-level winds. Even the Rolling Stones have changed their plans, moving their Miami concert to Friday because the show must go on.

The state is asking residents to be aware of their evacuation zones, particularly in low-lying areas, and to have at least a week's worth of food and water. Now is the time to refill any medical prescriptions, check your renter's and homeowner's insurance information, and remove outdoor furniture and plants.
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Jess Nelson is the 2019 writing fellow for Miami New Times. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and is excited to be living close to the water again after moving to Miami from New York. She studied history at UC Berkeley and investigative journalism at Columbia University.
Contact: Jess Nelson