MIAMI: Hurricane Dor­ian was gathering strength on Thursday as it churned towards Florida, where it could make landfall as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Florida’s governor dec­lared a state of emergency, warning residents on the east coast of the “Sunshine State” to prepare for a potentially major hurricane.

“Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster,” Governor Ron DeSantis said.

At 11am (1500 GMT), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said that Dorian was a Category 1 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometres per hour.

It was located 355 kilometres north-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the Atlantic Ocean and moving at 20 kph on a northwest track towards Florida, where it was forecast to make landfall overnight Sunday.

“Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday, and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend,” the NHC said.

Puerto Rico, still recovering from a powerful storm two years ago, was largely spared from Dorian but the NHC said it could dump up to eight inches of rain on some parts of the Bahamas.

As it approaches Florida, Dorian could be a Category 4 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, the NHC said, with winds of 210 kph and the potential to cause life-threatening storm surge along the coast.

In Puerto Rico, the new governor, Wanda Vazquez, gave the all clear but there was no let-up in the war of words between Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, the island’s capital, and President Donald Trump.

“Now that Dorian is going to the east coast let us hope that @realDonaldTrump sets aside his prejudice and racism & moves the federal response to efficiency,” the San Juan mayor tweeted. “I hope we do not see any insulting references to the people of Florida or self aggrandizement tweets,” she added.

Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico ahead of Hurricane Dorian, authorising federal assistance, but alleged that the island is “one of the most corrupt places on earth”. “Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt,” the president said on Twitter.

Puerto Rico’s former governor Ricardo Rossello was forced to resign last month in part because of criticism over his handling of the emergency created two years ago by Hurricane Maria.

A study accepted as valid by the government, which initially put the death toll at 64, estimated that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane and the months of disruption that followed.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019