Category 5 Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday morning with winds of 185mph and a minimum central pressure of 911mb. Dorian is currently in second place all-time for highest sustained wind speeds in the Atlantic. It also holds the eleventh lowest pressure in the recorded history of Atlantic tropical cyclones at 911mb. After the Bahamas, Dorian is expected to impact the Southeast United States.
Currently, the National Hurricane Center in the Atlantic basin is showing the storm staying just offshore the Florida coastline. However, a slight shift west in track could bring hurricane-force winds ashore on the Florida coastline.
The key to the forecast is pinning where the storm begins to turn north. Currently, there is a ridge building in the middle of the country to slow the storm. Dorian will likely slow down to 1-2mph before making a hard turn north. The earlier that turn occurs the more likely the storm will avoid landfall on the mainland United States.
Last night models shifted slightly west, but most keep the storm just east of Florida, sparing the state of the worst impacts. Regardless of the exact track, there will be flooding and storm surge issues in the state.
The American HWRF mode,l used for hurricanes, shows the storm further west than most, landfalling in central Florida. While this is not likely, a potential landfall would occur around Tuesday night.
The ECMWF and GFS global models are showing a further east solution. They both show either a landfall or very close shave to the Carolinas.
Above, the GFS model is showing another scenario where Dorian misses Florida entirely and strikes the Carolina’s. A landfall there would likely not occur until Thursday. This is due to Dorian’s slowing forward speed. More updates will be made on this solution if it becomes apparent that the storm will take this path.
One possibility in the future is impacts to southern New England. Above is a 500mb anomaly map. It shows a connection between an upper level low in the great lakes and Dorian as it makes a close pass. Both the GFS and European models have been inching closer to a connection in recent runs.
If the connection is even slightly stronger, Dorian can get pulled into the Mid-Atlantic or southern New England. This scenario is not likely at the time and is still five days away.
Heavy storm surge is possible if the storm makes landfall in Florida. Storm surge watches are currently in place for the eastern Florida coastline.
Winds likely will not be catastrophically bad unless the storm makes landfall in Florida. Even then, it is highly likely that Dorian would weaken by that point. The strongest winds would be along the coast with or without landfall. If the coast gets scraped there would likely be a swath of winds just below hurricane strength. If there is a direct impact there likely would be a small area that experiences hurricane-force winds within 20-30 miles of the core.
As for rainfall, there will likely be moderate impacts on coastal Florida. A 10-20 mile difference in the track can significantly change the impact level. Currently, the GFS is showing 1-4″ of rain for the Florida coastline. If the storm makes landfall or comes slightly closer, rainfall in areas could reach double digit amounts.
Most of the potential impacts really depend on if and where the storm makes landfall. A shift in the track just could make or break it for millions along the southeast coastlines.
You can follow me on twitter @mikebweather for the latest updates on the storm and the impacts that will be felt in and along the southeast. – Michael Barletta