Hurricane Dorian is powering towards Florida with increasing fury, with forecasters warning it has become an “extremely dangerous” category 4 storm.
The storm has grown stronger with top sustained winds of 140mph (220kph) while crossing warm Atlantic waters as it approaches the northwestern Bahamas, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Hours earlier, the storm had winds of around 130mph (215kph).
The Miami-based centre said Dorian should be near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday and near Florida’s east coast by late Monday.
Donald Trump’s prized Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida could be directly in Dorian’s path according to forecasters, who say the hurricane poses menace to millions, particularly along Florida’s heavily populated eastern coast.
The US president’s resort, which is currently closed for summer, is on the wealthy barrier island of Palm Beach.
On Friday, Mr Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorised the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster-relief efforts.
He told reporters that “Mar-a-Lago can handle itself” and is more worried about Florida.
The US National Hurricane Center described the hurricane as “extremely dangerous”.
Prime minister of the Bahamas Hubert Minnis said at a news conference: “Do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane. The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life.”
At 11pm on Friday, Dorian was centred 375 miles (605km) east of the northwestern Bahamas and about 545 miles (880km) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
It had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph) and moving west-northwest at an ever-slow 10mph (17kph).
Forecasters warned that its slow movement could subject the state to prolonged and destructive pummelling from wind, storm surge and heavy rain.
The hurricane could strike Florida with even higher winds and torrential rains late on Monday or early Tuesday, with millions of people in the crosshairs along with Walt Disney World.
Despite the storm growing in intensity, some of the more reliable computer models predicted a late turn northward that would have Dorian hug the coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
“There is hope,” Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said.
The faint of hope came as there were fears it could prove to be the most powerful hurricane to hit Florida’s east coast in nearly 30 years.
The National Hurricane Centre’s projected track from Friday showed Dorian hitting near Fort Pierce, around 70 miles north of Mar-a-Lago, then running along the coastline as it moved north.
Coastal areas could get 15 to 30cm of rain, with 46cm in some places, triggering life-threatening flash floods, the centre said.
FEMA official Jeff Byard said Dorian is likely to “create a lot of havoc” for roads, power and other infrastructure.
Florida’s governor urged nursing homes to take precautions to prevent tragedies like the one during Hurricane Irma two years ago, when the storm disabled the air conditioning at a facility in Hollywood and 12 patients died in the sweltering heat.
Source: SKY NEWS