Storm models, NOAA forecast, Florida bracing

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Florida beachgoers currently enjoying the warm waters of the Atlantic may grow to rue them by the end of the long holiday weekend.

It is in that kind of environment that Hurricane Dorian, currently at Category 1, is expected to gain considerable strength as it heads northwest, with the Sunshine State almost certainly on its path.

Forecasts call for Dorian to increase in intensity and become a Category 4 hurricane, with winds of at least 130 mph, and it could strike the U.S. on Labor Day. The National Hurricane Center says it will “remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend.’’

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Here’s what we know so far about the storm:

Where is Dorian?

After mostly sparing Puerto Rico, Dorian has exited the Caribbean and moved into the Atlantic Ocean.

As of the 11 a.m. ET update provided by the National Hurricane Center, the storm was located about 220 miles north-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving at 13 mph. Dorian doesn’t figure to hit U.S. terrain by Monday.

How powerful is it?

With sustained winds up to 85 mph, Dorian fits neatly into the mid-range of the Category 1, which stretches from 74 to 95 mph. That’s not as much a concern now that it’s in open water, but the issue is how much steam it may pick up.

The hurricane center said Dorian figures to become a Category 3 hurricane – with sustained winds of at least 111 mph – by Friday.

Why is it getting stronger?

Hurricanes need three major ingredients to form: water at least 80 degrees in temperature, moist air and converging winds. Then the storm nourishes from the water’s heat energy.

Scary: 5 things that make Dorian a dangerous hurricane

“The warmer the water, the more moisture is in the air,’’ the website for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says. “And that could mean bigger and stronger hurricanes.’’

The weather service said current conditions in the Atlantic “should allow for at least steady intensification during the next 2 to 3 days.’’

When and where will Dorian hit?

A Monday arrival seems likely, although Florida residents will probably experience tropical storm-force winds by Sunday. Forecasters say it’s too early to tell where Dorian will have the greatest impact, but any part of the coast between the Florida Keys and the southern part of Georgia could be a landing spot.

After that the storm’s path would be unpredictable. It could continue north along the coast or head west across the state toward the Gulf of Mexico.

What kind of impact could it have?

It could be calamitous. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in the storm’s projected path and is urging residents to prepare with supplies for at least a week.

The hurricane center warns there could be “devastating hurricane-force winds’’ along the state’s eastern coast and peninsula, and rain totals in the southeast U.S. could range from 4 to 8 inches and up to a foot in isolated areas.

“There is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast late this weekend or early next week,’’ the NHC said.

Airlines have canceled 78 flights to, from and within the U.S. Thursday and five Friday, according to FlightAware.com, with the totals likely to increase.

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