Hurricane Dorian has strengthened to a Category 3 storm as of 2 p.m. EST on Friday (Aug. 3).
"Data from a reconnaissance plane indicate that... maximum sustained winds have increased to near 115 mph (185 km/h) with higher gusts," the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an update. "Additional strengthening is forecast, and Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week."
The storm's westward movement is expected to slow down, and its core is now forecast to approach the northwestern Bahamas Sunday (Sept. 1) and eastern Florida late Monday (Sept. 2).
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"A life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds in the northwestern Bahamas. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves," the NHC wrote.
Next week, significant rainfall is expected to blanket impacted regions of the United States, triggering flash floods. As much as 18 inches (45 centimeters) of rainfall could add to the dangers from the storm surge and powerful winds.
The storm, which dealt Puerto Rico a comparatively mild blow Wednesday (Aug. 28), has since moved a couple hundred miles north. Dorian is tracking northwest toward Florida with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (135 km/h), making it a Category 1 hurricane now. However, the NHC said, pressure inside the hurricane has dropped significantly, which should drive the storm to strengthen into a "major hurricane" on Friday. Faster winds have likely not yet appeared, because a "double-eyewall" structure has emerged in the hurricane, temporarily limiting the most extreme winds.
Meteorologists with the NHC warned that Dorian poses a major threat to the northwestern Bahamas and the southeast coast of the United States over Labor Day weekend.
Here's how to prepare for the storm.
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Originally published on Live Science.