Hurricane Dorian should largely spare Long Island when what's left of it arrives Friday but strong wind gusts, rain and dangerous rip currents could keep East End communities on edge, forecasters said Tuesday.
Dorian's tentacles already were starting to brush Florida's east coast late Tuesday. Shortly before 11 a.m., the storm was downgraded to Category 2 with sustained winds of 110 mph — a drop from this weekend's Category 5, when Dorian's winds hit 185 mph.
Dorian is expected to slowly move northwest, close to Florida's east coast, through late-Wednesday and then inch closer to the Georgia and Carolina coasts Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service. As survivors of 2012 superstorm Sandy may recall, slow-speed hurricanes can be among the most destructive.
"Although the official forecast does not show Dorian making landfall along the Florida east coast, users are reminded not to forecast on the exact forecast track," the National Hurricane Center said, cautioning that even minor changes in its path could devastate Florida seafront.
Dorian had barely budged Monday into Tuesday morning, it said, because the currents that were steering it had collapsed. As survivors of 2012 superstorm Sandy may recall, slow-speed hurricanes can be among the most destructive.
Long Island's East Enders could get their first dose of Dorian from Friday evening into Saturday morning, with up to an inch of rain and wind gusts of 40-50 mph possible, said Nelson Vaz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton.
Tropical storm conditions are possible on the ocean waters east of Moriches Inlet, the National Weather Service said in advisory Tuesday. Gales force gusts are possible on the nearshore waters surrounding eastern Long Island, the advisory said. Tropical storms have sustained gusts of 39 mph.
Nassau and western Suffolk are expected to see less rain and potentially gusts of 30-40 mph, Vaz said.
"We are not going to experience the impact that the southeast U.S. coast is seeing but Dorian still bears watching as it makes its close approach," Vaz said. "But we are still 72-96 hours away and the track could wobble and go up or down."
Atlantic Ocean beaches could see dangerous rip currents and rough surf as early as Wednesday through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service advisory. The highest surf is likely Friday into early Saturday.
Vulnerable coastal communities could also see moderate flood impacts, including dune erosion and localized washovers along Atlantic Ocean beachfront, the advisory said.
The tail end of Dorian should clear out of Long Island by Saturday morning.
"As we get into the Friday time frame, we will see an increase in rough seas, rip currents, things like that, along the South Shore," said David Radell, a weather service meteorologist.
Still, "the current path right now of Dorian really has it well offshore of the Island," he said.
A spokesman for the UN World Food Program said preliminary calculations showed that 45,700 people in Grand Bahama island may need food, along with another 14,500 in the neighboring Abaco islands.
Some 62,000 people also will need access to clean drinking water, according to the International Red Cross. A Red Cross spokesman, Matthew Cochrane, estimated about 45 percent of homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco were severely damaged or destroyed and the organization would help 20,000 of the most vulnerable people, including a large Haitian community.