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The Bahamas brace for impact as Hurricane Dorian closes in

Category four Hurricane Dorian continues to strengthen, with sustained winds of 240 kilometres per hour, gusting to 296km/h – and it is not done yet.

As it begins to affect the northern part of the island chain of the Bahamas on Sunday, the winds are expected to increase further, reaching sustained speeds of 250km/h, just shy of a Category five.

Hurricanes of this power would be expected to cause widespread, catastrophic damage.

This means wind and flood damage resulting in severe destruction to homes and businesses; life-threatening storm surge; and power outages that could last many weeks.

Already, the outer bands of the powerful hurricane are beginning to affect the island chain, with rain and strong winds sweeping across the area.

As it moves in and begins to cross the northern Bahamas, the forward speed will slow down.

This means more time for the torrential rains to fall and for the winds to batter the land, which could have devastating results with more than 24 hours of hurricane force winds, pounding surf, storm surge and widespread flooding. Abaco and Grand Bahama are likely to see the worst of the conditions.

The slowing of the storm also means a change in direction once it has stalled over the Bahamas, and it looks set to make a turn to the north as it moves away from the island chain. The forecast track now has the hurricane staying offshore the mainland United States and spare Florida the brunt of its power.

However, effects from this major hurricane will be damaging all along the Florida coast, heading past Georgia and the Carolinas.

People along the Florida east coast should continue to prepare for hurricane conditions, including the risk of property damage, coastal flooding, flooding from heavy rainfall, beach erosion, large waves and loss of power.

The powerful winds will travel further inland and tropical storm conditions will be felt, with local flooding and isolated power outages.

The farther offshore Hurricane Dorian tracks, the less amount of rain and wind damage will occur. But, the storm may become more spread out as it travels farther north along the Atlantic coast, and the risk of heavy rain spreading inland will also increase.

Throughout the central and eastern counties of the Florida Peninsula, there will also be the risk of isolated tornadoes, which includes the possibility of waterspouts along the east coast.

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