Hurricane Dorian strengthens into category 4 storm, UM prepares

Hurricane Dorian's latest projected path, according to the National Hurricane Center. Photo credit: NHC
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Hurricane Dorian's latest projected path, according to the National Hurricane Center. Photo credit: NHC

Update, 9:45 a.m., Aug. 31: The National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Dorian shifted to the east overnight, meaning that the storm might not make landfall in Florida. But forecasters warn that the storm could shift again, so Florida residents should continue to prepare.

Update, 10:50 p.m., Aug. 30: The National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Dorian has reached wind speeds of 140 miles per hour. The storm is expected to reach wind speeds of 150 mph Saturday evening while it’s still out at sea. Before making landfall in the U.S., the NHC predicts that winds will fall back down to 130 mph.

The National Hurricane Center announced Friday night that Hurricane Dorian has strengthened into a category four hurricane after reaching winds of 130 miles per hour. As of 8 p.m., the storm continues to crawl through the Atlantic and is about 575 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida.

The storm is expected to make landfall on Florida’s coast late Monday or early Tuesday, forecasters say. It is still unclear where exactly the storm is headed, as projections place its path anywhere from the Florida Keys to the Carolinas.

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The latest chart from the National Hurricane Center demonstrates the probability of tropical-storm-force winds resulting from Hurricane Dorian. Photo credit: NHC

Preparations are underway at the University of Miami in case the hurricane turns toward Coral Gables. Windows are being boarded up, sandbags are being added to doorways and many students are fleeing to safety.

Neither UM nor Miami-Dade county have issued any evacuation notices, but UM administrators are urging students to have a plan in place.

“While there is still uncertainty about where and when Hurricane Dorian will make landfall, now is the time to prepare and to take all necessary precautions for the storm and its aftermath,” said UM President Julio Frenk in a video to students. “Your safety and well being are our number one priority, and we want to make all decisions with that responsibility at heart.”

As of now, the residential colleges will remain open through the storm, but all classroom, laboratory and office buildings on the Coral Gables campus will be closed beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31.

The on-campus dining halls are expected to operate normally until wind speeds reach tropical storm force. On Saturday morning, all students remaining in the residential colleges will receive Meals Ready to Eat.

The university has also initiated a shuttle system that takes students from the Coral Gables campus to buy supplies at CVS, Publix and Whole Foods. The 30-minute route includes on-campus stops at lot 721 (near the University Village), the Architecture Circle and lot 310 (near Mahoney and Pearson). The shuttles will run Friday and Saturday from 12 to 8 p.m.

Weather forecasters are calling Hurricane Dorian “extremely dangerous,” saying it could be the strongest storm to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The storm is moving through the Atlantic slowly, and is expected to slow down even more before making landfall in the U.S., forecasters say. Gov. Ron deSantis warned that this could cause a multi-day storm with sustained winds and rain.

Sandbags were stacked up in a University Village courtyard Friday morning as crews prepared to secure the building. Photo credit: Rebecca Goddard

A core team of UM employees are working to prepare campus for impact, said President Frenk.

“Be assured that we are taking care of every detail so that our students, faculty and staff are safe and informed, and our campuses are ready to resume our great work very soon,” he said.

This is a developing story. The article will be updated as more information becomes available.