Dorian reached hurricane strength on Wednesday, becoming the second hurricane of the Atlantic season. The newly formed hurricane was packing 75-mph winds as it moved northwest at 13 mph near St. Thomas. As it tracks north of the Bahamas later this week, Dorian is expected to reach Category 3 strength before approaching the southeastern United States coast.
The storm made a shift to the north on Wednesday causing its center to regenerate northeast of Puerto Rico and putting forecasters on alert for development of the Atlantic's first major hurricane of the 2019 season.
The hurricane continued to bring waves of heavy rain to Puerto Rico and parts of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands on Wednesday after it battered portions of the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday. While Dorian's eye wasn't yet visible on satellite imagery Wednesday, it was easy to spot in a radar loop showing the storm passing by Puerto Rico.
Moving into the warm waters of the southern Atlantic will provide the right conditions for Dorian to continue strengthening; AccuWeather meteorologists are forecasting Dorian to intensify into a major hurricane before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. Water temperatures in the Atlantic range from 84 degrees to 86 degrees along the projected path Dorian is expected to take.
"Dorian shifted to the north as it traveled over warm open waters, allowing it to undergo rapid strengthening," said AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski of the storm's rapid intensification.
The longer the tropical system stalls over the waters of the Atlantic, the longer that Dorian could be a major hurricane.
Interests north and east of the Bahamas should prepare for hurricane conditions. Some of the far northern islands of the Bahamas will be significantly impacted while the majority of the others will get barely a breeze and a little rain.
A swath of heavy rain, locally damaging winds and battering surf is in store, but the worst conditions are likely to be over a relatively narrow path over open water and across the northern islands of the Bahamas like Grand Bahama and Grand Abaco.
At this time, lesser impacts are expected across the southern half of the Bahamas, farther from the track of Dorian.
With several days over the open waters of the Atlantic still to go, the exact track of Dorian for the weekend and beyond is not set in stone.
"A very small fluctuation in the overall weather pattern will have a large influence in where Dorian ultimately tracks and how it impacts the continental U.S.," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty.
Other factors in the atmosphere through the weekend, from a high pressure over Bermuda to a storm in the central U.S., could open up the possibility for potential impacts in locations from the Florida Keys to the Outer Banks.
This could influence whether Dorian tracks westward into Florida or slows before reaching the Florida coast and makes a turn to the north.
"If Dorian does slow and turn to the north, impacts in the Carolinas would be much more significant while Florida would be spared from major damage," Douty added.
"Because of the wide range of possibilities, the wind, surge and rainfall impacts expected from Dorian over the northern Bahamas and Florida are highly uncertain at this point," added Kottlowski.
By the time Dorian reaches the U.S., the overall size of the storm may be somewhat larger and its impact will reach farther, when compared to the compact system in the Caribbean. This could bring a wider range of impacts from southern Florida to the Georgia and South Carolina coastline.
Now is the time to make sure you have a preparedness plan. Visit AccuWeather Ready for more information on how to be prepared for hurricane season.
As Dorian approaches, conditions will deteriorate first along the southeastern U.S. Atlantic coastlines, with increasingly rough surf and rip currents.
Rainfall will also increase over the Florida Peninsula during the holiday weekend, ahead of landfall sometime Sunday night or early on Monday morning, depending on how far north the tropical cyclone wanders beforehand.
Copyright 2019 AccuWeather, Inc. All rights reserved. From https://www.accuweather.com.
By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist.