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Florida braced for a beating from ‘absolute monster’ Hurricane Dorian

Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando are all within the ‘cone of uncertainty’ which could bear the brunt of the storm.

Brevard County prepares for the approach of Hurricane Dorian, as well over 100 vehicles lined up at 10:00am for free sandbags being filled by trustees from the Brevard County Jail (Florida Today/AP)
Brevard County prepares for the approach of Hurricane Dorian, as well over 100 vehicles lined up at 10:00am for free sandbags being filled by trustees from the Brevard County Jail (Florida Today/AP)

By Adriana Gomez Licon and Ellis Rua, Associated Press

Residents in the US state of Florida watched the increasingly dire forecast for Hurricane Dorian with a sense of helplessness and braced for what could be the most powerful storm to hit the state’s east coast in a generation.

President Donald Trump warned it could be an “absolute monster”.

“All indications are it’s going to hit very hard and it’s going to be very big,” Mr Trump said in a video he tweeted, comparing Dorian to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992.

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(PA Graphics)

The National Hurricane Centre said the Category Two storm is expected to strengthen into a potentially catastrophic Category Four with winds of nearly 140mph and slam into the US on Tuesday, almost 10mph faster and a day later than previously forecast.

The hurricane centre’s projected track showed the storm hitting near West Palm Beach.

But predicting its course with any confidence this far out is so difficult that the “cone of uncertainty” on the map covered nearly all of Florida’s 500-mile coastline, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando all within the danger zone.

Forecasters warned, too, that the storm’s slow movement could subject the state to a drawn-out pummelling from wind, storm surge and heavy rain.

“If it makes landfall as a Category Three or Four hurricane, that’s a big deal,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.

“A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims.”

With the storm’s track still unclear, no immediate mass evacuations were ordered.

Along Florida’s east coast, local governments began distributing sandbags, shoppers rushed to stock up on food, plywood and other emergency supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores, and motorists topped off their tanks and filled petrol cans.

Some fuel shortages were reported in the Cape Canaveral area.

Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, went to a Publix supermarket in Miami only to find empty shelves in the water section.

“I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened,” she said.

“What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?”

In Vero Beach, about 140 miles up the coast from Miami, Lauren Harvey, 51, scoured the aisles of a nearby supermarket in search for non-perishable foods that could last her throughout the storm.

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Store shelves are empty of bottled water as residents buy supplies in preparation for Hurricane Dorian, in Doral, Florida (Marcus Lim/AP)

Harvey, who works in medical billing, is going through a divorce and recently moved from the Philadelphia-area.

She said she is not sure what to expect and is preparing to spend her very first hurricane alone.

“I just moved here, so I’m lost,” she said with a blank expression on her face, after grabbing a couple of water bottles from a scantily stocked shelf.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Feeding on the warm waters in the open ocean, Dorian steamed toward the US after rolling through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where it inflicted less damage than feared but was blamed for at least one death.

As of Friday morning, Dorian was centred about 255 miles northeast of the Bahamas.

Its winds had increased slightly to 110mph and the storm was moving northwest at 12mph.

Forecasters said it was expected to keep on strengthening and become a Category Three later in the day.

Coastal areas in the Southeast could get six to 12 inches of rain, with 15 inches in some places, triggering life-threatening flash floods, the hurricane centre said.

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James Wolfe, 72, left, and Elaine Wolfe, 65, install shutters on their home (Ellis Rua/AP)

Also imperilled were the Bahamas, with Dorian’s expected track running just to the north of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.

Jeff Byard, an associate administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned that Dorian is likely to “create a lot of havoc with infrastructure, power and roads”, but gave assurances Fema is prepared to handle it, even though the Trump administration is shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from Fema and other agencies to deal with immigration at the Mexican border.

“This is going to be a big storm. We’re prepared for a big response,” Mr Byard said.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency, clearing the way to bring in more fuel and call out the National Guard if necessary, and Georgia’s governor followed suit.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian began rerouting their cruise ships.

Major airlines began allowing travellers to change their reservations without a fee.

The hurricane season typically peaks between mid-August and late October.

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Hurricane Dorian, right, moving over open waters of the Atlantic Ocean (AP)

One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US was on Labour Day 1935.

The unnamed Category Five hurricane crashed ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast on September 2.

It was blamed for over 400 deaths.

PA

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