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Dorian on track to approach Florida as a Category 4 storm

Posted at 10:57 AM, Aug 29, 2019

MIAMI -- Hurricane Dorian has a lot of warm water and time ahead of it, and it's expected to use both to grow into a major cyclone with a good chance of slamming Florida's Atlantic Coast by Labor Day.

Dorian, having swept across the British and US Virgin Islands and whipped Puerto Rico with rain Wednesday, was moving northwest in the Atlantic Thursday morning with sustained winds of up to 85 mph.

By Friday it should strengthen to a powerful Category 3 storm, smack the northern Bahamas on Sunday and likely crash somewhere along the Florida or Georgia coasts on Monday with sustained winds around 125 mph.

Because it's four days out, the range of potential landfall spots is vast -- from the Florida Keys to southeast Georgia.

"It has a lot of time in very warm water (to strengthen)," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. "Not much shear, not much dry air, and a lot of time to gain strength."

The affected areas in the US will feel tropical-storm force winds -- at least 39 mph -- on Sunday. And the center could pause before it runs into land -- potentially whipping cities with "inches and inches of (rain) an hour," Myers said.

"People have got to be ready before Sunday," Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday.

Floridians are lining up for gas and food

Officials such as Gov. Ron DeSantis have urged people to have seven days of food and medicine available during hurricane season -- and coastal residents already are stripping store shelves bare with Dorian in mind.

In Port Orange, 40 miles northeast of Orlando, Brooke Koontz found shelves of bread and water nearly empty at a Walmart on Wednesday. There were also slim pickings among canned goods, toiletries and bananas, too.

Thankfully, soon after she arrived, employees brought out a pallet of water.

"It was gone in seconds," she told CNN. "People were trying to race."

Long lines and low supplies were seen at several stores in the Miami area on Wednesday,CNN affiliate WSVN reported.

Plenty of people also were stocking up on fuel Thursday along Florida's Atlantic coast. That included Arthur Sanders, who waited in a long line to get gas in Port St. Lucie.

"They were directing traffic and had part of the parking lot blocked off," Sanders said.

DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Wednesday for 26 counties and urged all residents on the coast to get ready for the storm.

"It's important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely," DeSantis said. "Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp told residents of his state to keep their eyes on Dorian, too.