Hurricane Dorian is still forecast to strike Florida as a major Category 3 storm. And somewhat ominously for South Florida, the predicted storm track continues to edge south.
The 5 p.m. advisory shows Dorian’s projected path coming ashore south of Cape Canaveral. Earlier forecast paths showed the storm coming ashore north of Cape Canaveral, then across the cape, and now farther south closer to Melbourne and Palm Bay in Brevard County.
Category 3 hurricanes are classified by winds of between 111 and 129 mph, strong enough to carve a huge path of destruction while tearing off roofs, toppling trees and causing electricity and water outages that could last for days if not weeks.
But still, Dorian’s date with Florida remains shrouded in uncertainty so things can, and will, change before Sunday or Monday’s anticipated landfall on Florida’s east coast.
“The track forecast errors at Day 4 and Day 5 are large,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center. “The center of the storm can be anywhere in that cone two-thirds of the time. And the cone has nothing to do with where the impacts of wind and water will take place.”
“Residents of Florida need to pay attention to this hurricane and make sure their hurricane plan is ready to go,” Feltgen said.
The latest cone map issued by the National Hurricane Center at 2 p.m. Wednesday had Dorian’s center aiming for the Cape Canaveral area on Florida’s east coast.
Earlier Wednesday the track forecast had the center of the storm landing farther north, closer to the Daytona Beach-St. Augustine area.
But changes in the forecast track are typical this early out — and that forecast track will likely continue to fluctuate. Even harder to predict this early, meteorologists say, is how strong the storm will be.
“The risk of dangerous storm surge and hurricane-force winds is increasing in the central and northwestern Bahamas and along the Florida east coast, although it is too soon to determine where these hazards will occur,” Senior Hurricane Specialist Lixion Avila wrote in the 11 a.m. advisory.
Florida residents who were here for Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 will remember that pretty much right up until the last day or so, nobody really knew if South Florida would be spared or not. And Irma, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 132 mph in Cudjoe Key in the lower Keys, still exacted a significant amount of damage in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties
According to the hurricane center, tropical storm-force winds could start hitting parts of Florida on Saturday.
With top winds measuring 70 mph, Dorian is expected to become a hurricane Wednesday. Hurricanes are marked by minimum peak wind speeds of 74 mph.
Dorian’s forecast path now projects the storm, which was bearing down on Puerto Rico midday Wednesday, would dodge the Dominican Republic and emerge in the Atlantic Ocean well east of the Bahamas. Because the path now has Dorian churning out over the open Atlantic, the storm will now be guzzling the fuel that pumps storms up into monsters — warm ocean waters.
At 11 a.m. Dorian was just 25 miles southeast of St. Croix with maximum winds of 70 mph — a 20 mph increase from Tuesday and 10 mph increase from Wednesday morning — as it moved northwest at 13 mph.
Track-wise, during the last 12 hours or so, Dorian has shifted slightly to the north, but then slightly south again. The good news was that the Florida Keys, which was ravaged by 2017′s Hurricane Irma, were no longer in the so-called “cone of concern.” The bad news was that this could change.
Hurricane forecasters consistently stress the message that storm path forecasts four to five days out are notoriously sketchy — and could be off by 200 miles.
No matter what happens, Dorian is expected to drench the Florida peninsula with 4 to 8 inches of rain and, in isolated areas, up to 10 inches, according to the hurricane center. Significant amounts of rain are also expected in Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.
Be prepared, officials urge.
Tropical Depression Erin
Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Erin, formerly a tropical storm overnight, was churning in the Atlantic about 265 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., with winds measuring 40 mph. It was posing no immediate threat to the United States.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but 95 percent of storms are produced during the peak period from mid-August to late October, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that conditions could be favorable for more dangerous storms than initially projected.