Cutting it close: Florida’s fate may be a matter of miles

The Associated PressFrom Florida to North Carolina, residents and government officials are preparing for possible impacts of Dorian, even as forecasts suggest the hurricane’s powerful core will remain offshore when it heads up the Southeast seacoast.

South Carolina’s governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of his state’s entire coast as Hurricane Dorian threatens.

Gov. Henry McMaster’s order goes into effect at noon Monday, when state troopers will begin reversing lanes so that people can all head inland on major coastal highways.

Authorities say the order covers approximately 830,000 people, many of whom will be evacuating for the fourth time in four years.

McMaster said he knows some people won’t be happy having to leave their home but added, “we believe we can keep everyone alive.”

In Florida, officials ordered an evacuation of barrier islands, mobile homes and areas that are prone to flood because of Hurricane Dorian.

Palm Beach County issued the evacuation order beginning 1 p.m. Sunday after the county that includes West Palm Beach was placed under a tropical storm warning.

The official forecast path for Dorian curves the storm away from the area before it strikes land. But the National Hurricane center said there are variables that could alter that path, and there is about a 50% chance West Palm Beach will get hurricane winds by early Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts the center of Dorian is to stay off shore while paralleling the South Carolina coast starting Wednesday afternoon. But a small error in the forecast could send the eye and strongest winds into the state.

President Donald Trump is urging everyone in Dorian’s potential path to obey all warnings and evacuation orders from local authorities, saying public safety “must always come first.”

Trump said Sunday that he and members of his staff are receiving frequent updates on the “monstrous” storm “to ensure that we are fully prepared. And we are fully prepared.”

Speaking in Washington at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he was updated on the storm’s path, Trump said the slow-moving hurricane is one of the largest to ever materialize. He said the expectation is that a large part of the Eastern seaboard will be affected, “some of it very, very severely.”

The Hurricane Center said Dorian’s maximum sustained winds stood Sunday at a monstrous 185 mph (295 kph), with higher gusts. Dorian is located about 185 miles (295 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump later tweeted: “Pray for the people in the Bahamas. Being hit like never before, Category 5. Almost 200 MPH winds.”

The U.S. Coast Guard reported it helped the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office rescue two people after a wave knocked them off a boat near the Florida coast as Hurricane Dorian churned in waters to the east.

The Coast Guard said in a news release that it received a call from the Indian River Police Department on Sunday that people were in the water near Sebastian Inlet. It launched a vessel and a helicopter to search the area.