JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite a shift in Hurricane Dorian's predicted path that moved the cone of concern off the Jacksonville coast and the storm losing some strength, the threat of damaging winds and storm surge remains very real.
At 1:15 a.m. on Wednesday, our local area saw its first Tropical Storm force winds, the St. Augustine Beach Pier saw sustained winds of 44 mph and a wind gust measured at 52 mph.
On Tuesday, Dorian weakened to a Category 2 storm with sustained winds down to 110 mph, though the National Hurricane Center said Dorian -- which was 95 miles east of Cape Canaveral as of 11 p.m. Tuesday -- is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days.
At the same time, we saw the overall intensity of the storm drop, the area of hurricane-force winds doubled in size.
For hours, the storm crawled to the northwest -- with forward speed slowly increasing to 6 mph -- after spending more than a day almost stationary over the Northwest Bahamas.
The National Hurricane Center updated the forward motion to north-northwest as of 11 p.m., our first indication of the forecasted turn to the north taking place. A turn toward the north is forecast by Wednesday evening, followed by a turn toward the north-northeast Thursday morning.
On this track, the core of Hurricane Dorian will move dangerously close to the Florida East Coast and the Georgia coast through Wednesday night.
Despite the slightly faster forward motion as of the 11 p.m. advisory, the overall forecast for Dorian has slowed down, putting the storm off our coastline during the late afternoon and early evening hours on Wednesday, according to this forecast.
The forecast path still brings the storm off our coast, but has it remaining a Category 2 hurricane as it sweeps by.
WHAT TO WATCH: Predicted local impacts of Hurricane Dorian
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Flagler and St. Johns counties.
A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.
A Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warning includes Duval, Nassau, Camden and Glynn counties.
A Tropical Storm Warning means tropical storm-force winds are expected somewhere within the area within the next 36 hours. A Hurricane Warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 48 hours.
Here's what we could feel as far as winds Wednesday afternoon:
The forecast path of the storm shows Dorian staying just offshore of Florida's East Coast and moving closest to Jacksonville -- about 85 miles offshore -- around 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday as a Category 2. That proximity would bring tropical-storm-force winds to the broad stroke of the area and potentially hurricane-force gusts along the coast for St. Johns and Flagler counties.
The primary concerns will be wind gusts up to 65 mph at the beach, coastal flooding and erosion, flooding related to strong northerly winds, and 3-6 inches of rain in our coastal areas.
If Dorian tracked offshore of Jacksonville as the current track suggests, here would be the possible impacts:
- Coastal Flood Warning is in effect until the storm passes. Tides are already running up to 2 feet above normal.
- Tuesday will be generally breezy with brief, yet intense downpours.
- Swells from the approaching system will grow as it nears, causing potentially life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Many beaches will be closed the next few days.
- If the hurricane remains along the coast, coastal flooding erosion will be likely.
Coastal areas could get 3 to 6 inches of rain, while areas west of the St. Johns River only receive 1-2 inches in some places.
Over 2 million people along the coast in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina were warned to evacuate. The American Red Cross said they've already opened 170 shelters and evacuation centers and over 13,000 people are already at those facilities. FEMA has over 1,600 employees deployed or on the way to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Several large airports announced closures and many flights were canceled on Tuesday.