Dorian, and it is currently passing through the western Atlantic with an expected turn to the northwest coming soon. This will bring the storm close to Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, most likely as a weak hurricane. After that, what happens is very uncertain.
The biggest question is how much of the circulation of Dorian will remain after it passes those islands because if the center of circulation passes over the mountains of Hispaniola or even Puerto Rico, it is likely to be disrupted and become much weaker. If it threads the needle between the islands, Dorian’s circulation could be relatively intact and would then likely be stronger. The computer simulations of where the storm could go after that range all the way from the SC-NC border to Texas, but the highest likelihood today is that it will strengthen somewhat after it passes PR and then turns NW to hit the east coast of Florida sometime on Saturday morning. Many of the models have it passing over the Florida peninsula and entering the Gulf of Mexico before heading north, but there is still a lot of uncertainty in that.
The biggest impact of the storm at this point is likely to be heavy rain over the Florida peninsula this weekend, while most of the rest of the Southeast stays dry through Monday morning except for a few widely scattered showers. Orlando’s rainfall forecast from this morning shows up to 8 inches of rain from the storm, which will certainly put a damper on holiday plans for people traveling there. If the storm enters the Gulf, the above-normal sea surface temperatures could help induce some additional strengthening, although no one is expecting it to act like Michael did last year. If the storm heads north over Alabama or Georgia, we are likely to see some heavy rains and some gusty winds there by the end of the weekend and into the next week, depending on how fast the storm is moving and what path it takes. It’s a pretty small storm, so the worst impacts are likely to cover a smaller area than some other recent tropical systems.
If you happen to be on the East Coast this weekend for the holiday, you can expect higher than normal tides, since they are already predicted to experience a king tide and the onshore flow from the tropical storm could pile up more water along the coast.
-Pam Knox, Extension Climatologist