Hurricane Dorian is now a Category 3 major storm and is still gathering strength as it moves toward Florida, where it could make landfall as soon as late Monday as a Category 4 hurricane.
The storm's new status means it's considered a "major" hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. At that strength -- with sustained wind speeds between 111 and 129 mph -- storms can cause "devastating damage" to homes and uproot many trees, says the National Hurricane Center.
As a result of Dorian's power, all of Florida has been placed under a state of emergency and authorities are urging residents to stockpile a week's worth of food and supplies, with the governor warning that the storm could be a "multi-day" event.
"It's going to impact the entirety of Florida, and residents need to be prepared," Acting FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor said Friday morning on CNN's "New Day." "So, take the time now ... to understand what your local risk is."
"The clock is ticking right now," he added. "Don't waste time. Prepare yourself and your family."
Deborah Thomas, 69, was doing just that Friday at a Home Depot in West Palm Beach when she broke down in tears with worry over how her dog and her pigs would survive the storm.
"I live in a mobile home, so I stand to be homeless," she told CNN. "But that is not what worries me. I have animals. I can replace my home, but I can't replace my animals."
Dorian, now with sustained winds of 115 mph, is due to slow its forward speed in the coming days, allowing it to gain intensity over warm Caribbean waters and fuel the heavy rains, damaging wind and storm surge it's expected to deliver, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.
Hurricane watches have been issued for the northwestern Bahamas, where Dorian is expected to hit Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. In the meantime, Dorian is expected to "remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane," the center said, with potentially "life-threatening storm surge."
It is then forecast to roar toward the US mainland Monday evening into Tuesday morning at major-hurricane strength, though experts warn that forecasts are subject to change.
"There is a wide cone of uncertainty of the storm, especially since it is still days from landfall on Florida," CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford said. The cone extends from Key West up to around Jacksonville, a distance of 500 miles, he added.
The storm is likely to grow in size, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. That means that regardless of where it makes landfall, much of Florida -- including inland cities like Orlando and west coast cities like Tampa -- could see hurricane force winds and heavy rain. Storm surge could impact much of the state's east coast.
Big storm, big response
Dorian warrants a multibillion dollar price tag, FEMA associate administrator Jeffrey Byard told reporters Thursday.
"This is going to be a big storm. We're prepared for a big response," he said.
Since Dorian had minimal impact on Puerto Rico, the agency is shifting staff from the island to Florida in preparation.
Dorian already has claimed the title of strongest storm so far of this year's Atlantic hurricane season.
If it reaches Florida, this will be the fourth year in a row a hurricane of any strength has hit the state. That would be the most years in a row since the 1940s.
And if it reaches Florida as a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of around 130 mph, it would be the strongest hurricane to strike Florida's east coast since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller said.