Hurricane Dorian is gaining momentum, but the latest projections show the storm could miss Florida and also travel off the coast of Georgia, Channel 2 Action News reported.
On Sunday, the hurricane was classified as a Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. The storm pummeled parts of the Bahamas on Sunday as it made its way closer to the U.S.
At 11 p.m., the storm was reported to have sustained winds of 180 mph as it moved west at 6 mph.
The latest trajectory shows the hurricane could hug the East Coast, possibly making landfall in the Carolinas by midweek, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Katie Walls.
“Sadly, we are still expecting a major impact,” Walls said. She noted that hurricane watches and warnings were being posted in Florida on Sunday evening as the region prepared for Dorian’s effects.
The storm is expected to run parallel to Florida as it makes its way north up the eastern coast.
“As it does so, we’re going to be dealing with more impact along the Florida and Georgia coasts,” she said. “We’re talking about extreme rainfall — 6 to 12 inches for southeast Georgia, extreme coastal flooding, major storm surge, and coastal erosion.”
Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said Hurricane Dorian will nearly stall late Sunday through Tuesday morning, meaning it will move slowly up the east coast. That could mean an extended period of major hurricane force wind, storm surge, and tremendous amounts of rain, he said.
Walls said the storm is the strongest hurricane in modern record to hit the northwestern Bahamas.
While that scenario isn’t great news for those living along the Atlantic Coast, it likely means the storm would have less of an impact on North Georgia than initially thought.
The storm was upgraded twice as it gained speed Friday, first to a Category 3 and then a Category 4.
When Dorian strengthened to a Category 3 storm, it became the first major hurricane to threaten the East Coast of the United States this season.
By the time all is said and done, Dorian could dump 10 to 15 inches of rain over Florida and the coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina.
Its impact on North Georgia, if any, likely won’t be felt until mid- to late week, Walls said.
In addition to the most likely scenario, which is that Dorian will hug the coastline and hold onto some of its strength, Walls said there are two other possibilities.
The storm could revert to its previously projected path, moving farther inland into Florida before curving north into Georgia. If that happens, the storm’s energy would weaken more quickly, lessening its impact.
The third scenario is the most desirable for everyone, since it wouldn’t even make landfall.
“It turns north a little sooner, staying offshore,” Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said. “We’d be sunny with only a light wind, and the coasts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida would be on the backside of the hurricane, and the impacts would be less.”
North Georgia’s rain chances will stay low through the weekend as dry air settles in on Dorian’s western front, according to Channel 2. High temperatures are forecast to hover around 90 degrees, and there will be lots of sunshine.
Atlanta residents who stay close to home for this weekend should be in for great weather.
Those with travel plans to Florida for Labor Day may want to reconsider, however, as the first round of mandatory evacuations were issued Saturday morning.
Florida officials are expected to expand the evacuation area as the storm nears, and all 67 counties are under a state of emergency.
A state of emergency has been issued for 12 coastal Georgia counties. Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce and Wayne counties are on alert.
Gov. Brian Kemp urged Georgia residents to be ready to respond quickly. Local agencies are already preparing for potential evacuations from Florida, which would impact traffic in Georgia over the holiday weekend. The Department of Transportation is conducting sweeps of the roadways to ensure they are clear in advance of the storm, Kemp said.
Georgia DOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said the agency plans to have 800 employees on call through the weekend and 1,000 pieces of equipment ready to clear trees and ease flooding in South Georgia.
Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, said his agency was also preparing to send resources wherever needed should the storm shift and head toward southwest Georgia.
Another unique element to Dorian is timing. The long Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest all year for Atlanta.
The city is a traditional landing pad for Floridians who are able to flee storms. But the city will be much fuller than usual with Dragon Con’s estimated 85,000 attendees and thousands more in town for Atlanta Black Pride and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between Alabama and Duke.
Atlanta Motor Speedway is opening its camping facilities to evacuees, and the Red Cross of Georgia is also in preparation mode.
Dale said they will always welcome people seeking respite, but she had a suggestion.
“It might behoove them to take in the lovely sights of Alabama or Mississippi,” she said.
— Staff writer Ben Brasch contributed to this article.
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