Kimberly Gaston (L) and Madelin Valdez fill sand bags in preparation for the hurricane Dorian in Casselberry, Florida, on Thursday. AFP
The sounds of hammers banging into plywood and cash registers dinging echoed across the Bahamas on Friday as the archipelago that lies just southeast of Florida rushed to prepare for Hurricane Dorian, which threatened to turn into a powerful Category 4 storm.
The storm is expected to approach the northwest Bahamas on Saturday and then move over or near that region on Sunday.
"Do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a news conference. "The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life."
Florida’s governor on Friday urged residents in the state to stock up on at least a week’s worth of food, water and medicine and to prepare to lose power and cellphone service for days after Hurricane Dorian makes landfall early next week.
The hurricane was moving in a northwest direction at 10 mph (17 kph) and was expected to make landfall somewhere on the Florida coast late Monday or early Tuesday, the NHC said.
A hurricane watch was in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, where the NHC said life-threatening storm surge could raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet (three to 4.5 meters) above normal tide levels. Heavy rainfall could cause flash floods, it warned.
President Donald Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago golf club is located in Palm Beach, said that Dorian was “looking like it could be an absolute monster” and he cancelled a trip to Poland to stay behind and focus on preparations for the storm.
“All indications are it’s going to hit very hard,” Trump said in a video.
“Some people said bigger or at least as big as Andrew,” a Category 5 storm which left 65 people dead in 1992, he said.
Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida authorizing federal assistance to supplement state and local efforts.
Georgia -- another southeastern state that could be in the storm’s path -- has declared a state of emergency 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.
The US Coast Guard said ocean-going commercial vessels should make plans to leave south Florida ports.
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 and gas cans.
A number of schools announced that classes would be cancelled until at least Tuesday.
One shopper, Magdalena Gomez, 57, from Argentina, was preparing for her first hurricane.
“If they tell me to go buy water, I go buy water. I do everything they say,” Gomez said.
A Rolling Stones concert in Miami originally scheduled for Saturday night was moved up by a day due to the weather forecast, the band said on its Twitter account.
Feeding on the warm waters in the open ocean, Dorian steamed toward the US after rolling through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where it inflicted less damage than feared but was blamed for at least one death.
The storm's top sustained winds decreased slightly to 170 mph (275 kph) as its westward movement slowed, crawling along Grand Bahama island early Monday at 2 mph (4 kph) in what forecasters said would be a daylong assault.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on Wednesday lamented the "generational devastation" wrought by Hurricane Dorian, as it was upgraded to a major Category 3 storm while bearing down on the Carolinas on the US east coast.
UN agencies said on Tuesday they had emergency medical and food aid ready to help the people of the Bahamas after the devastating passage of Hurricane Dorian through the island chain.
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