Where Will Dorian Strike? Category 4 Storm Changes Course, May Hit Carolinas, Georgia

The latest projections show Hurricane Dorian—upgraded to a category 4 storm Friday—shifting course. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), a "notable change" to the storm's path occurred overnight. Forecasters now say a high-pressure system building over the Atlantic Ocean could push Dorian a little more to the north, bypassing Florida altogether.

Dorian was originally predicted to make landfall in Florida some time on Monday, potentially affecting the Carolinas and 12 counties in Georgia. However, the latest Dorian tracking images show what the National Hurricane Center has called a "cone of uncertainty," and on Saturday morning their experts said it was still too soon to tell just where the storm will hit first.

8/31 8 AM EDT: There's been a notable change overnight to the forecast of #Dorian after Tuesday. It should be stressed that the new forecast track does not preclude Dorian making landfall on the Florida coast, as large portions of the coast remain in the track cone of uncertainty pic.twitter.com/GSds0bKunM

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 31, 2019

As of 11 p.m. EDT Friday, Dorian's center was approximately 375 miles east of the Bahamas, with the National Hurricane Center forecasting "a prolonged period of storm surge and hurricane-force winds." The hurricane's location was also 545 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida.

Here are the 5 AM EDT Saturday, August 31 Key Messages for Hurricane #Dorian. A prolonged period of storm surge and hurricane-force winds are likely over portions of the northwestern Bahamas. Visit https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB for more info. pic.twitter.com/aVMKOqAvfn

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 31, 2019

By Saturday morning, the hurricane was expected to make landfall in the U.S. on Wednesday, if at all.

The center also noted that, should the center Dorian remain offshore, those along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts would still have potentially "life-threatening" storm surges to contend with. In that scenario, Florida could see as little as 10 inches of rain.

Significant impacts could also occur even if the center of #Dorian stays offshore. With the change in the forecast, the risk of strong winds and life-threatening storm surge is increasing along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina during the middle of next week. pic.twitter.com/7yI3bxa8ti

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 31, 2019

While some experts turn to the use of the popular "spaghetti model" to show a storm's likely progression, others feel they can do more harm than good. The National Hurricane Center prefers the "cone of uncertainty" because it is easier to read. The NHC has "never posted the model runs on its website," according to Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the NHC's parent agency.

"We have chosen to not do so because our experience indicates such plots confuse some users and, most importantly, detracts from our final message, the official track forecast," Feltgen told Newsweek. "Some users get caught up in the individual forecast scenarios presented by the lines—many of which have little or no chance of being correct. This is not the message we want to send."

Parts of the Bahamas Are Under Hurricane Watch as Dorian Intensifies
In this NOAA GOES-East satellite image, Hurricane Dorian leaves the Caribbean Sea and tracks towards the Florida coast taken on August 29, 2019 in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane watch advisories went into effect across various areas of the Bahamas as Dorian intensified on August 30, 2019. NOAA Handout/Getty Images

The Weather Channel reports that despite its uncertain path, Dorian is expected to grow larger in the coming days, though it will lose some of its speed. So far, the hurricane has developed maximum sustained windspeeds of 140 miles per hour.

"At 5 a.m. EDT Saturday, tropical-storm-force winds (at least 39 mph) extended about 105 miles from the center of Dorian," the channel reported. "That distance is expected to double over the holiday weekend. The increase means that more areas are at risk of feeling impacts from Dorian, even those outside of the official forecast cone."

Additionally, the risk of flooding increases with a slower-moving storm. Forecasters say Dorian's decreased speed could mean not only heavy rains, but a "longer period of strong winds, coastal flooding and storm surge" when it reaches land.