Hurricane Dorian, threatening the Bahamas and south-eastern coast of the US, has grown in strength, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The storm was expected to hit the island chain on Sunday before making landfall on the US east coast.
At 11 am CEST, the centre reported Dorian was located around 110 km east of great Abaco island, with maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h.
Residents and tourists alike hunkered down in one of America’s biggest holiday destinations, Florida, as the powerful storm spun across the Atlantic Ocean toward Florida on Friday.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Dorian was packing maximum sustained winds of 225 kph with higher gusts.
It was upgraded to a category four hurricane.
Hurricane conditions are expected in the Bahamas by Sunday, where storm surges could raise water levels over 4.5 metres above normal.
“Dorian is anticipated to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane while it moves near the northwestern Bahamas and approaches the Florida peninsula into early next week,” the NHC said.
Over 20 million Americans could feel the storm’s impact and Dorian has the potential to put millions of people at risk.
Holiday attractions such as Walt Disney World lie in its path, as well as the NASA launchpads along the Space Coast, and Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, which belongs to US President Donald Trump.
“Although fluctuations in intensity are possible early next week, Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days,” the NHC said in a statement on Friday.
On the east coast of Florida, where the storm’s winds are expected to pick up speed on Monday morning, residents bought up supplies such as bottled water and plywood, while some petrol stations reported running out of fuel.
In the Bahamas, evacuations were already underway.