Florida residents are preparing for the arrival, early next week, of Hurricane Dorian, which on Friday strengthened to a category 4 while going through the Caribbean.
In an update, the National Hurricane Centre called Dorian “an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane” with maximum sustained winds close to 215 kilometres per hour.
The hurricane was projected to hit southern Florida’s eastern coast late on Monday or early Tuesday and then trudge northward through central Florida, crossing an area that is home to millions of people.
Some Florida residents were expected to begin experiencing tropical-storm-force winds as early as Sunday morning.
Brevard County, which is east of Orlando, issued mandatory evacuations “due to the uncertainty of the path of devastating winds and storm surge’’.
Residents of barrier islands, people living in mobile homes, manufactured housing or in low-lying, flood-prone areas should start evacuating at 8.00 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Sunday, the county said in a statement.
U.S. President Donald Trump called Dorian “one of the biggest hurricanes we’ve seen in a long time, a long time. So it could be very devastating.’’
He said before leaving the White House grounds for Camp David by helicopter.
Trump said he would be back in Washington on Sunday afternoon to coordinate efforts to deal with the storm.
Earlier, Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, told Fox News: “we know that it’s going to be intense.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty still as to where this storm is going to end up going.’’
“It does have the potential to impact any county in Florida, all 67 could be affected,’’ he told Fox News in an interview.
During a press conference on Friday, DeSantis said some gas stations were running out of fuel and that there were multiple school district closures.
He also called on Floridians to prepare for a “multi-day event”.
The Florida National Guard has readied 2,000 personnel and it is planning to double that number by the end of Saturday in preparation for possibly catastrophic winds and rain.
Dorian is expected to remain “an extremely dangerous hurricane” as it approaches Florida, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
The hurricane slowed on its north-western path compared to previous predictions that said it would make landfall on Sunday, meaning that it will likely spend more time wreaking havoc in the state of Florida in a “prolonged period of storm surge, high winds and rainfall,’’ the NHC said.
Florida has a long history of tropical storms, with Hurricane Irma in 2017 – a category 4 storm – causing the evacuation of seven million people and 123 deaths.
In 2018, Hurricane Michael was the first category 5 hurricane to strike the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
“Life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early next week but it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge and winds will occur,’’ the NHC added.
On Friday and Saturday, the core of Dorian was predicted to be north of the south-eastern and central Bahamas, and near the Florida peninsula late Monday.
DeSantis had declared a state of emergency across the state earlier this week.
Trump has cancelled a trip to Poland over Dorian, telling residents to stay safe in the “absolute monster” of a storm.