TAMPA, Fla. (WTVT) — As Hurricane Dorian followed its path parallel to Florida’s east coast, its outer rain bands reached as far as the interior counties, bringing rain to areas like Polk and Highlands counties early Wednesday morning. But besides that, the Tampa Bay area relatively felt no major effects from the record-breaking storm.
Dorian finally — but slowly — started making its way off the Grand Bahama Island Tuesday, after battering it for nearly two days. As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Dorian remained a Category 2 hurricane, with wind speeds of up to 105 mph. The storm is moving at 9 miles per hour.
Dorian’s hurricane-force winds have remained offshore from the east coast of Florida, and are projected to stay away from those Florida cities and towns bordering the Atlantic Ocean, says FOX 13’s meteorologist Dave Osterberg.
While high winds are not the major concern, heavy rain and storm surge of up to five feet is, he added.
“Yes, they will have those sustained tropical storm-force winds,” he said. “I still think it’s just that churning of the water, those high tide cycles, and just pushing all that water into the coast that will be the main problem with this system.”
The hurricane is expected to hold the Category 2 status as it takes its turn northeast between Wednesday and Thursday, coming dangerously close to the North Carolina coast line.
“I still think even on a path like this, I don’t think it’s going to be the wind [that’s the issue], it’s going to be the water that this whole storm system is bringing with it and pulling on shore,” Osterberg explained. “Places like Charleston, South Carolina are very susceptible to flooding from hurricanes, and that is a huge concern to those folks up there.”
By Thursday, the Carolinas are projected to feel the effects of Dorian, but after the storm should head off and not bother anyone in the northeast U.S.
Once Dorian loosened its grip in the northwest Bahamas, residents began swooping in, rescuing victims with jet skis and a bulldozer as the U.S. Coast Guard, Britain’s Royal Navy and a handful of aid groups tried to get food and medicine to survivors and take the most desperate people to safety.
Airports were flooded and roads impassable after the most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas in recorded history parked over Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, pounding them with winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rain before finally moving into open waters Tuesday on a course toward Florida.
At least seven deaths were reported in the Bahamas, with the full scope of the disaster still unknown.
The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics.
“It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic,” said Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief group and flew over the Bahamas’ hard-hit Abaco Islands. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”
Meanwhile, forecasters are tracking two other storms in the tropics — both are not projected to impact the U.S. Tropical Storm Fernand in the Gulf of Mexico is moving west, and is expected to arrive in Mexico later Wednesday. It’s not expected to become a hurricane.
Newly-formed Tropical Storm Gabrielle off the coast of Africa is projected to move north and into the Atlantic.
“Once Dorian leaves, we’ll get a break in the U.S. for a while,” Osterberg said. “But we have more waves emerging off the coast of Africa. We are getting into the peak of hurricane season. I’m sure we are not done tracking storms.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.