Hurricane Dorian is barreling toward the Bahamas this morning, set to pass over the northwestern portion of the islands later today as it continues to surge toward the U.S.
At 8 a.m. ET this morning, Dorian was upgraded to a Category 5 storm – the highest, most dangerous designation – packing sustained winds of up to 160 miles an hour. It was 70 miles east of Great Abaco in the Bahamas at 5 a.m., moving at 5 to 10 miles per hour, according to the Weather Channel.
“This,” meteorologist Jim Cantore said in a morning broadcast from Florida, “is a perfect wind machine.”
Meaning it’s also perfect for storm surges on the U.S. when it makes landfall and perfect for heavy rain, thunder and lightning.
In a breathtaking – and frightening – view from space, you can see the lightning associated with Dorian.
Whoa. Electric #Dorian is lighting up the night.
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) September 1, 2019
How it will affect the U.S. remains to be seen. According to CNN, many models show the storm staying just off Florida’s coast Tuesday and then skirting the coasts of Georgia and North and South Carolina.
Other models show Dorian churning as far north as Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay with impact expected mid-week.
“Understand: Even if it doesn’t directly strike Florida … you’re looking at major flooding events,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Saturday in Tallahassee.
There is a state of emergency in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but government officials have not yet ordered a mandatory evacuation or mandatory hotel closures – but they did ask tourists and residents alike in the Florida Keys to leave now as a precaution.
Daytona International Airport in Daytona Beach, Fla., will stop all commercial air traffic on Sunday night after the last flight departs. Orlando International had issued a similar statement early Saturday, but reversed course late Saturday night and will remain open for business.
Hurricane #Dorian Statement – 8/31/19 Evening
Orlando International Airport will continue with operations on Monday, September 2.
— Orlando International Airport (@MCO) September 1, 2019
In the Bahamas, Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport closed on Friday and will reopen on Tuesday, Sept. 3, pending the damage from the storm. The airport’s statement noted that re-opening “is subject to prevailing conditions.”
Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) in Nassau, Bahamas, south of Freeport, is still open.
As always, all travelers on airlines and cruise ships should check with their carrier and cruise line on the current status. All airlines doing business in the southeast U.S. have waived change fees and capped fares. Cruise lines have changed itineraries to avoid Dorian and, as of this morning, Florida ports in Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Miami and Palm Beach have closed, according to cruisecritic.com. Tampa, Jacksonville and Charleston, S.C., remain open but are monitoring for any forecast changes. Freeport Grand Bahama Port is also closed.
Carnival hesitated on making a decision on how quickly it could turn around its Carnival Horizon in Miami, and now passengers on the next cruise are stranded.
“PortMiami is closed to inbound traffic,” Carnival said in a statement. “Port officials approved Carnival Horizon to dock this evening to give guests aboard the opportunity to disembark, with the requirement that it depart later tonight. Our request to remain docked in port through Sunday afternoon was denied. Regrettably, guests who are already in town for the September 1 cruise will not be able to board the ship this evening.”
That did not sit well with a few passengers.
“Because they waited until the last possible moment to make this decision,” wrote one Facebook user, “my family is now stuck in a city that’s in the direct path of a hurricane.”
Carnival expects the port to re-open as early as Monday or as late as Wednesday.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has asked its 10,000-plus members to waive cancellation fees.
Walt Disney World remains open.
“We are also contacting guests with current and upcoming reservations at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Copper Creek Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to plan for anticipated weather impacts,” WDW said in a statement.
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