Hurricane Dorian Strengthens to Cat. 5 Near Great Abaco

Hurricane Dorian strengthened to Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale near Great Abaco Island on Sunday morning.  At 9:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday the center of Hurricane Dorian was located at latitude 26.5°N and longitude 76.5°W which put it about 35 miles (55 km) east of Great Abaco Island, Bahamas and about 225 miles (360 km) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.  Dorian was moving toward the west at 8 m.p.h. (13 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 175 m.p.h. (280 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 220 m.p.h. (355 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 927 mb.

A Hurricane Warning was in effect for the Northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.  A Hurricane Watch was in effect for Andros Island.  A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the portion of the coast from Deerfield Beach to Sebastian Inlet, Florida.  A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the portion of the coast from Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach, Florida.

A reconnaissance plane found that Hurricane Dorian had strengthened to Category 5 on Sunday morning.  Dorian exhibited the structure of a classic intense hurricane.  There was a circular eye with a diameter of 15 miles (24 km) at the center of circulation.  The eye was surrounded by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  Storms near the core of Hurricane Dorian were generating strong upper level divergence which was pumping mass away from the hurricane.  Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of the hurricane.

Winds to hurricane force extended out about 30 miles from the center of Hurricane Dorian.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 110 miles (180 km) from the center of circulation.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Dorian was 40.4.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 11.7 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 52.1.  Hurricane Dorian was very similar in size and strengthen to what Hurricane Michael was when Michael hit northwest Florida in 2018.

Hurricane Dorian will remain in an environment very favorable for intense hurricanes during the next several days.  Dorian will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  It will move through a region where the upper level winds are weak and there will be little vertical wind shear.  Hurricane Dorian is likely to remain a very strong hurricane for several more days.  At some point a rainband is likely to wrap around the existing eye and eyewall.  When that happens, an eyewall replacement cycle will cause fluctuations in the intensity of Dorian.

Hurricane Dorian will move south of a subtropical high pressure system over the western Atlantic Ocean.  The high will steer Dorian toward the west on Sunday.  Hurricane Dorian could slow on Sunday night when it nears the western end of the ridge.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Dorian will move over the Abacos and New Providence on Sunday.  Dorian is capable of causing catastrophic damage over portions of the Northwestern Bahamas.  It could generate a storm surge of 15 feet (4.5 meters) where the strongest winds push water toward the coastline.  Hurricane Dorian could eventually approach the coast of southeast Florida as a very strong hurricane.