Hurricane Dorian strengthened to a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane on Sunday morning as it closed in on the northern Bahamas.
As of 8 a.m. EDT Sunday, Dorian was located about 225 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida; 35 miles east of Great Abaco island in the Bahamas; was packing winds of 160 mph with higher gusts and was moving west at 8 mph.
The slowing, strengthening storm caused its forecast track to be altered earlier this weekend.
The powerful storm is now about to blast the Bahamas, but Dorian may spare the eastern coast of Florida a direct hit. Impacts along the Florida coast will still be damaging even without a landfalling hurricane.
The hurricane has made the westward turn forecasters had been predicting, but the second turn forecasters have been calling for is becoming more likely to occur before pushing inland across Florida.
Fluctuations in strength are likely due to internal processes of hurricanes, such as eye-wall replacement cycles.
The hurricane is forecast to slow its forward speed and may even stall east of Florida on Monday.
This predicted crawl is expected to give a non-tropical storm from the Midwest time to begin to tug on Dorian and pull it northward and then northeastward. This should be enough to allow a glancing blow on Florida, rather than a direct hit, similar to Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The farther offshore Dorian tracks, the less amount of rain will fall over the Florida Peninsula, southeastern Georgia, southeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina.
However, while Florida may avoid a hurricane that rams inland with widespread, severe damage, there will be other consequences of the revised path of the mighty storm.
Devastation likely over the northern Bahamas
The predicted crawl across the northern Bahamas may be devastating. Instead of a period of 6-12 hours of hurricane-force winds, pounding surf and storm surge inundation, these conditions may last more than 24 hours in some locations on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.