LEILA FADEL, HOST:
We're watching Hurricane Dorian today, now a Category 5, churning through the Atlantic and pounding the Bahamas. Earlier today, we reached Bill Albury, a restaurant owner in Marsh Harbor, as the storm was closing in.
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BILL ALBURY: We don't know what we're going to get on the backside, so we're just all very anxious. The power has been off since very early this morning, about 3 a.m., and most people on backup power at this time if they have backup power.
FADEL: Joining me now to talk about this storm is Cyndee O'Quinn. She's a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. Good morning.
CYNDEE O'QUINN: Good morning, Leila.
FADEL: Cyndee, so how devastating could this be for the Bahamas?
O'QUINN: This is actually the strongest hurricane to ever occur in the northwestern Bahamas. So catastrophic is how the National Hurricane Center is describing it. Wind speeds right now - 180 miles per hour as it is making landfall in Abaco Island, expected to affect the Grand Bahamas later today into this afternoon. And the thing with this hurricane is that we could still see some intensification.
FADEL: What about the East Coast? What path does this storm seem to be taking?
O'QUINN: Well, we were looking at a different scenario over the last 48 hours. On Friday, we were looking at potential impacts into Florida. Then we had that turn a little bit more to the northeast that looked like Florida might actually miss the storm. And then today, the models have been pushing back a little bit farther to the west. So currently, the models and the official forecast track is saying that it will stay just offshore, but because of the massive size of this storm and the intensification, we already have hurricane watches now in effect for the East Coast of Florida. And we are expecting to see those detrimental effects on the east coast of Florida all the way up into the Carolinas.
FADEL: So the wind, waves are the biggest immediate danger, but much of the southeast should be on the lookout for flooding, too, right?
O'QUINN: Right. We are expecting across coastal areas in South Carolina, and even inland, we could see anywhere from five to 10 inches of rainfall, with some amounts up to 15 inches. Now, we'll see a little bit lower levels of rainfall across the Florida area but still at least four to six inches of just rainfall. And that's not even taking consideration the coastal flooding and the king tides or the higher tides with the moons that we'll see into this weekend.
FADEL: So in the past several years, some big hurricanes, Irma and Florence, have changed course dramatically. And now Dorian also seems to be veering off its projected course. Is this to be expected or are storms becoming more unpredictable?
O'QUINN: With this one, it's been mainly dealing with the ridge of high pressure that's been across the Atlantic. And so we just - really the models did not have a good grasp of how much this would strengthen, how far west it would go, and that was really influencing the track of Hurricane Dorian. But we've started to see that it's actually going to be losing its steering currents. And so with Dorian, when you don't have the steering currents as we saw in Hurricane Florence in South Carolina, it actually starts to stall. And that's what we're looking at this storm to do is to slow down dramatically in the next 12 to 24 hours.
FADEL: What's your advice for Floridians today?
O'QUINN: The advice is that we were put under the state of emergency alert on Friday. And we are looking at those preparations to still be taken very seriously. Now is a time, if you have not finished your preparations, you're along the East Coast areas, in the places that we are seeing the hurricane watch - that is from north of Deerfield Beach down to Volusia and Brevard counties - take immediate action. And we're expecting hurricane force winds to begin as early as Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
FADEL: Cyndee O'Quinn is a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. Thank you very much and stay safe.
O'QUINN: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.