Top Stories
Top Stories
Wires

UPDATE 11-Trump cancels Poland trip as Hurricane Dorian gains strength

Zach Fagenson and Gabriella Borter

(Adds updated forecast, new comments from Florida governor)

MIAMI, Aug 29 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump canceled a visit to Poland on Thursday and Florida's governor expanded a state of emergency to prepare for Hurricane Dorian, which is forecast to make landfall on the Atlantic coast Monday as a dangerous Category 4 storm.

Trump said Vice President Mike Pence would make the trip to Poland in his place so that he could remain in the United States to make sure federal resources were properly directed at the arriving storm.

"It's something very important for me to be here. The storm looks like it could be a very, very big one indeed," the president said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who had already declared a state of emergency for 26 counties on the state's east coast, extended it on Thursday to the whole of Florida.

"Floridians need to take this storm seriously. Hurricane

#Dorian is moving slowly & gaining strength," DeSantis wrote on Twitter. "Now is the time to get prepared & have a plan. Remember, we can rebuild a home but we cant rebuild your life. The safety of all Floridians is my top priority."

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties to assist with storm readiness, response and recovery.

Dorian, expected to strengthen in the Atlantic with violent winds topping 130 miles per hour, is aiming at central Florida, including Florida's famed Space Coast. It is expected to make landfall on the Labor Day holiday Monday. It could churn across dozens of launchpads owned by NASA, the U.S. Air Force and companies such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

Such winds would make Dorian a Category 4 storm, the second-strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricane intensity.

BAHAMAS NOW IN PATH

Dorian, a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday afternoon, had maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (137 km per hour), moving toward the northwest at 13 mph (20 kph) some 330 miles (535 km) east of the Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based NHC said hurricane watches could be issued for portions of the Bahamas on Friday and the risk of "devastating hurricane-force winds along the Florida east coast late this weekend and early next week continues to increase."

After making landfall, Dorian was forecast to linger over central Florida on Tuesday, according to the NHC. Tropical storm-force winds could be felt in parts of the state as early as Saturday evening.

"We're worried. This is not looking good for us," said Angela Johnson, 39, bar manager at Coconuts On The Beach, a Cocoa Beach bar and restaurant on the town's surfing beach. "We woke up a lot more scared than we went to bed last night, and the news is not getting any better."

Officials were making piles of sand available for Cocoa Beach residents to fill sandbags starting on Friday.

The biggest hurricane to have come ashore in the area in recent history was Jeanne in 2004, which made landfall around Port St. Lucie as a Category 3 storm.

Miami television station WSVN showed images of dozens of shoppers with empty carts lining up around the outside a supermarket in Davie, part of the Miami metropolitan area, waiting to get inside to buy what supplies they could.

The Universal Orlando Resort theme park, owned by Comcast Corp, said it was following the approaching storm closely.

Nearby towns were checking storm drains and back-up generators for waste-water plants as well as setting up round-the-clock shifts for emergency personnel.

The University of Central Florida, one of the largest U.S. universities by student population, said its main campus in Orlando would close on Friday afternoon. Governor DeSantis said the storm "has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant."

(Reporting by Zach Fagenson in Miami and Gabriella Borter in New York; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay, Helen Coster in New York, Alexandra Alper, Joey Roulette and Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Will Dunham and Tom Brown)