Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas as a fierce Category 4 storm Saturday, with new projections showing it curving upward enough to potentially spare Florida a direct hit but still threatening parts of the Southeast U.S. with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes what can be deadly flooding. Areas of the Northern Bahamas could spend an extended period within Dorian's eyewall, the National Hurricane Center said, subjecting them to extended bouts of punishing wind, rain totals above 24 inches and storm surge 10-15 feet above normal levels.
However, hurricane force winds will still accompany the storm as it makes landfall.
Hurricane Dorian gained fearsome new muscle as an "extremely dangerous" category 4 storm, as it bore down on the north-western Bahamas early on Saturday en route to Florida's east coast.
Dorian was about 280 miles east of the northwestern Bahamas and about 445 miles east of West Palm Beach, Fla., according to the hurricane center.
Meteorologists said Dorian has grown into an extremely risky Category 4 storm as it heads toward land.
The direst warnings were reserved for the islands of Abacos and parts of Grand Bahama - home to Freeport, the nation's second largest city - which appeared to sit right in Dorian's strike zone.
All of Florida is under a state of emergency and authorities are urging residents to stockpile a week's worth of food and supplies as Hurricane Dorian gathers strength and aims to slam the state as soon as Monday as a Category 4 storm.
"Do not be foolish and try to courageous out this hurricane", Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.
"I've been through too many of these storms before", Ferguson said. Leaving mercifully little damage in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Dorian swirled toward the USA, with forecasters warning it will draw energy from the warm, open waters as it closes in. The Bahamas Prime Minister has warned residents they may pay with their life if they choose not to evacuate.
As of Saturday afternoon, the storm was just shy of a category 5 - indicating it continues to strengthen - but the forecast track is less clear.
Dorian will continue to move northwest, then west over warm waters. "We encourage all South Carolinians who may be impacted by Hurricane Dorian to be vigilant and prepare now - there is no reason for delay".
The dispatch warned that a unsafe storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves up to 15 feet can be expected near the shores of Eleuthera, Abaco and Grand Bahama on Sunday into Monday.
Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida authorizing federal assistance to supplement state and local efforts.
The timing of it nearing Florida's east coast also varies, from Monday to Tuesday.
A sea turtle nest is cordoned off on the edge of the beach as bands of rain come in on South Beach.
Major cruise lines Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian have started rerouting ships.
"It is imperative that all Floridians and their families take this threat seriously and have a plan in place", Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "Florida is going to get really hammered by this".
By Saturday morning, the hurricane was expected to make landfall in the USA on Wednesday, if at all. That wind speed means it has reached the Category 3 level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Dorian was expected to move over the Atlantic "well north of the southeastern and central Bahamas" Saturday, and to be near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Sunday.