Miami: Dorian heading towards Florida on Friday was on track to become a major hurricane with a dangerous storm surge and potential for life-threatening flash floods.
Its maximum sustained winds have reached 165 kilometres per hour, making it a Category 2 storm on a five-level scale, the National Hurricane Centre said.
It is expected to strengthen over the next few days as it approaches the Bahamas and then Florida over the weekend.
Weather forecasters said Dorian could make landfall on the US east coast as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with the potential to cause life-threatening storm surges.
President Donald Trump cancelled a weekend trip to Poland to focus on preparations for the storm.
Florida has declared a state of emergency, warning the millions of people who live up and down the eastern coast of the Sunshine State to prepare for a potentially huge hurricane.
Georgia — another southeastern state that could be in the storm’s path — followed suit for 12 counties.
Governor Brian Kemp said the hurricane “has the potential to produce catastrophic impacts to citizens” throughout the southeast coastal region of the United States.
Trump, who has properties including the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, a politically important state for his 2020 re-election bid, also warned Floridians to get ready.
“Be prepared... it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!” he said on Twitter.
The US Coast Guard said ocean-going commercial vessels should make plans to leave South Florida ports.
“The risk of devastating hurricane-force winds along the Florida east coast and peninsula late this weekend and early next week continues to increase,” the NHC warned.
Miami’s Ocean Drive, a normally-vibrant strip along the beach, was quiet, with some empty tables and fewer tourists than usual.
Grocery stores were packed with shoppers making last-minute purchases of water, food, propane canisters and other supplies.
There were lines at some gasoline stations as drivers filled up their tanks.
A Rolling Stones concert in Miami originally scheduled for Saturday night was moved up by a day “due to the weather forecast,” the band’s Twitter account said.
Puerto Rico was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm. — AFP