(SPACE.COM) – Hurricane Dorian is now a “catastrophic Category 5” storm and the strongest on modern record as it approaches the northwestern Bahamas in the Caribbean, according to a National Hurricane Center update today (Sept. 1).
As of 11 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), Dorian has maximum wind speeds of 180 mph (285 km/h) as the storm churns about 20 miles (30 km) east of Great Abaco Island, the NHC wrote in the update. The storm is about 205 miles (330 km) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
“Devastating hurricane conditions are expected in the Abacos Islands very soon and these conditions will spread across Grand Bahama Island later today,” NASA officials said today in a morning update.
That forecast has borne out, the NHC reporting of “catastrophic conditions occurring in the Abacos Islands.”
Hurricane Dorian is currently moving west across the Caribbean at about 7 mph (11 km/h), a relatively slow speed that is expected to dump massive amounts of rain on the Abaco Islands.
“Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles (220 km),” the NHC said in its update.
Dorian is expected to slowly move west over the next two days before turning northeast.
“On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to move over Great Abaco, and continue near or over Grand Bahama Island later tonight and Monday,” NHC officials said in the update. “The hurricane should move closer to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night.”
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, has taken steps to safeguard itself against Hurricane Dorian. On Friday (Aug. 30), center officials moved a massive 400-foot Mobile Launcher tower into the shelter of the center’s 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building to protect it from damage.