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Dorian expected to slam into northwest Bahamas

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A group of people fish at Dania Beach Pier on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at Dania Beach, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Dorian (all times local):

5 p.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Dorian is expected to slam into parts of the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Dorian is maintaining top sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph) as of 5 p.m. EDT Saturday.

The storm is now centered about 170 miles (270 kilometers) east of Great Abaco Island — or about 355 miles (570 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach, Florida. It is crawling westward at 8 mph (13 kph) with a turn to the northwest expected in a day or two.

The hurricane center says a tropical storm watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida from Deerfield Beach to Sebastian Inlet.

Forecasters say Dorian should move closer to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday amid uncertainty over whether it would make a direct hit or skirt its way up the U.S. Southeast shoreline.

4:40 p.m.

A Florida county is delaying its evacuation order from Sunday to Monday as Hurricane Dorian slows its forward speed across the ocean and its projected path shifts further from the state's Atlantic coast.

Brevard County is now calling for evacuations to begin Monday morning, instead of Sunday. County officials say families in mobile homes or flood-prone areas and those with special needs or on barrier islands including areas to the south of Kennedy Space Center need to seek shelter elsewhere.

Public Safety Director Matt Wallace cautions that people should remain vigilant. Says Wallace, "This is not your government saying we're out of harm's way. This is still a killer storm."

Martin County, north of Palm Beach, also announced it would evacuate certain areas as Dorian nears the coast.

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4:20 p.m.

The country's two largest home improvement stores say they are gearing up for the storm and getting extra supplies to locations that could be impacted.

Lowe's says it has shipped 1,500 truckloads of generators, flashlights and other supplies to stores in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The company says it has more than 200 stores in those areas.

Home Depot also is shipping additional supplies to more than 150 stores in Florida and Georgia, and that number will likely be higher as the storm tracks north, the company says.

Hurricane Dorian, currently near the northwestern Bahamas, is expected to skirt the Southeast coastline near Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Both Lowe's and Home Depot say that stores will stay open for as long as it is safe to do so.

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1:50 p.m.

A major, Category 4 hurricane is continuing to track toward the Bahamas, threatening the islands with devastating amounts of rain, dangerous storm surge, and extremely high winds.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says maximum sustained winds of powerful Hurricane Dorian stood at 150 mph (240 kph) as of about 2 p.m. EDT Saturday - just slightly less than the 157 mph wind speed that constitutes a catastrophic Category 5 storm.

Dorian's center was 205 miles (325 kilometers) east of the Great Abaco in the Bahamas and 385 miles (625 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach, Florida. It was expected to be near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday.

The storm was traveling west at 8 mph (13 kph) and was expected to move near the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday.

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12:25 p.m.

Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency in South Carolina after the latest forecast for Hurricane Dorian increased the threat to the state.

The emergency declaration makes it easier to get federal help and let state agencies coordinate possible evacuations or other preparations.

No evacuations have been ordered. McMaster and emergency officials are monitoring the forecasts to see if they push Dorian farther out to sea. They plan a 5 p.m. Saturday conference call for a full update.

Hurricanes have caused coastal evacuations in South Carolina in each of the past three years.

The latest forecast says Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday.

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11 a.m.

The already powerful Hurricane Dorian continues to intensify as it moves west toward the Bahamas and the U.S. Southeast Coast.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says maximum sustained winds of the powerful Category 4 storm increased Saturday morning to 150 mph (240 kph) from 145 mph (230 kph).

As of about 11 a.m. EDT Saturday, Dorian was 260 miles (415 kilometers) east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas and 415 miles (670 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach, Florida. The storm slowed slightly, traveling west at 8 mph (13 kph) from 12 mph.

The latest forecast says Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday.

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9:35 a.m.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is warning Floridians not to let their guard down despite shifts in forecasts showing Hurricane Dorian possibly staying off the shore of the state. The cone of potential pathways still includes much of the state, and DeSantis says if residents are within that cone they should be prepared.

"Looking at these forecasts, a bump in one direction or the other could have really significant ramifications in terms of impact. If it bumps further east, that obviously is positive. If it bumps just a little west, than you're looking at really, really significant impacts. Don't make any assumptions, remain vigilant and be prepared," DeSantis said at a briefing Saturday morning.

He added that even if Dorian doesn't make landfall in Florida, the state could still be affected by winds and storm surge as it heads north along the East Coast.

"Understand, even if it doesn't directly strike Florida, this is a big, powerful storm. You're still looking at really significant storm surge on the east coast of Florida, you're looking at major flooding events in different parts of the state," he said. "You're still looking at significant impacts even if the storm remains hugging the coast.

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McLEAN'S TOWN CAY, Bahamas (AP) — Hurricane Dorian shut down some hotels in the northern Bahamas and forced some evacuations Saturday as the fierce Category 4 storm prepared to unleash torrents of rain and howling winds but was projected to spin farther away from the coast of the Southeast U.S. next week.

Forecasters expect Dorian, packing 150 mph (240 kph) winds, to hit the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday before curving upward. The storm's march north could spare the U.S. a direct hit but still threatens Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes potentially deadly flooding.

In the northern Bahamas, any remaining tourists were sent to government shelters in schools, churches and other buildings offering protection from the storm.

"My home is all battened up, and I'm preparing right now to leave in a couple of minutes. ... We're not taking no chances," said Margaret Bassett, 55, a ferry boat driver for the Deep Water Cay resort who chose to leave her home. "They said evacuate, you have to evacuate. It's for the best interests of the people."

Over two or three days, the hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet (1 meter) of rain, unleash devastating winds and whip up an abnormal and dangerous rise in sea level called storm surge, according to private meteorologist Ryan Maue and some of the most reliable computer models.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned that Dorian is a "devastating, dangerous storm."

In the northern Bahamas, small skiffs rented by authorities ran back and forth between outlying fishing communities and McLean's Town, a settlement of a few dozen homes on the eastern end of Grand Bahama, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Florida's Atlantic coast.

Most were coming from Sweeting Cay, a fishing town of a few hundred people that's about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above sea level and was expected to be left completely underwater.

A few fishermen planned to stay, which could put them in extreme danger.

"Hoping for the best, that the storm passes and everybody is safe until we return home," fisherman Tyrone Mitchell said.

Jeffrey Allen, who lives in the city of Freeport on Grand Bahama, said he's learned after several storms that sometimes predictions don't materialize, but it's wise to take precautions.

"It's almost as if you wait with anticipation, hoping that it's never as bad as they say it will be, however, you prepare for the worst nonetheless," he said.

Fears weren't as great in the capital of Nassau after the storm moved north, said Barbara Carey, owner of a tourist company. She said people there were stocking up on supplies.

The storm-prone Bahamas on average faces a direct hit from a hurricane every four years, officials say.

Construction codes require homes to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for residents who can afford it. Poorer communities typically have wooden homes and are generally lower-lying, placing them at tremendous risk.

After walloping the northern islands, forecasters said Dorian was expected to dance up the Southeast coastline, staying just off the shores of Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday before skirting South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, mobilizing state resources to prepare for potential storm effects. President Donald Trump already declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the risk of strong winds and rising water will increase along the shores of Georgia and the Carolinas by midweek.

The center also stressed that Dorian could still hit Florida, where millions of people have been in the storm's changing potential path. But after days of predictions that put the state in the center of expected landfalls, the hurricane's turn northeast is significant.

Carmen Segura, 32, said she had installed hurricane shutters at her house in Miami, bought extra gas and secured water and food for at least three days. She feels well prepared and less worried given the latest forecasts but still uneasy given the unpredictability of the storm.

"Part of me still feels like: So, now what?" Segura said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and federal officials warned people not to let their guard down.

"Looking at these forecasts, a bump in one direction or the other could have really significant ramifications in terms of impact," DeSantis said.

David Bibo of FEMA echoed the call to stay vigilant as the storm becomes "a long-duration nail-biter for folks throughout the southeastern United States."

The storm upended some Labor Day weekend plans: Major airlines allowed travelers to change their reservations without fees, big cruise lines began rerouting their ships and Cumberland Island National Seashore off Georgia closed to visitors.

Disney World and Orlando's other resorts held off announcing any closings, with Dorian days away and its track uncertain.

Sherry Atkinson, who manages a hotel on North Carolina's Outer Banks, said the hurricane wasn't spoiling holiday vacations for guests. She said she's lived on the Outer Banks for 26 years and that "so far, there hasn't even been a snippet of conversation about evacuations."

Some counties in Florida told residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying areas to expect evacuations in coming days.

Dorian was centered 385 miles (625 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach and was moving west at 8 mph (13 kph).

In the Bahamas, canned food and bottled water disappeared quickly from shelves and some people boarded up their homes.

"We ask for God's guidance and for God to assist us through this," Minnis said.


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