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Hurricane Dorian was about 220 miles north northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico and 370 miles east of the southeastern Bahamas at 11 a.m. Aug. 29. Dorian is forecast to strengthen into a major hurricane and make landfall somewhere along the east coast of Florida on Labor Day as a Category 3 hurricane.

Hurricane Dorian is gathering it strength and National Hurricane Center says it will become a major hurricane on Friday. It will likely make landfall along the east coast of Florida as a Category 3 sometime on Labor Day.

It’s still too soon to be sure where along the east coast Dorian might make landfall. The latest tracking forecast shows an area just south of Palm Bay and Melbourne. Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an emergency declaration for much of the east coast.

A Category 3 hurricane has winds of 111-130 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. NHC’s intensity forecast shows Dorian with winds of 130 mph as of Sunday continuing through landfall.

Pinellas County is monitoring the storm. The Citizen Information Center is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. for preparedness questions. Call 727-464-4333.

The National Weather Service predicts that tropical storm conditions are possible in Pinellas County and Tampa Bay on Sunday and Sunday night, bringing the potential for high winds, heavy rains and flooding.

The county’s public works employees are monitoring flooding hotspots.

Sandbag locations

Initially, Pinellas County had said it was not offering sandbags; however, it announced Thursday afternoon that several locations were opening in unincorporated areas. Sandbags will be available from noon-7 p.m. Thursday and from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Friday-Sunday, or as long as supplies last.

Sandbags are limited to 20 per person. Materials will be supplied, and shovels will be available. Staff will be available to assist residents that need help.

Sandbags are available at John Chesnut Sr. Park, 2200 East Lake Road in Palm Harbor, Walsingham Park, 12615 102nd Ave. N. in Largo and Lealman Exchange, 5175 45th St. N. in St. Petersburg.

The city of Pinellas Park has opened multiple self-service sandbag sites for residents only. Residents can get up to 10 sandbags each. Residents must show a water bill and/or valid driver's license indicating they are a resident of Pinellas Park in order to receive their sandbags.

Sandbags are available at Helen Howarth Park, 6401 94th Ave N., on Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Pinebrook Park, 7202 118th Ave N., on Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Broderick Park, 6101 66th Ave N., on Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

The city of Madeira Beach has activated a self-serve sandbag station at Archibald Memorial Beach Park, 15100 Gulf Blvd. The self-serve sandbag station is available 24 hours day. Madeira Beach Public Works staff will be available to assist those unable to fill or lift sandbags into their vehicle each day from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.

The sandbag station will remain open in advance of Hurricane Dorian, which is currently forecast to make landfall on Florida’s east coast late Sunday or early Monday. For more information, call Curt Preisser, public information officer at 727-391-9951, ext. 299 or email cpreisser@madeirabeachfl.gov.

The Sandbag Station for Oldsmar residents and businesses will open on Friday, Aug. 30, at noon, in the east parking lot of City Hall, 100 State Street West. For more information, call 813-749-1136.

Latest information

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Dorian was located about 220 miles north northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico and 370 miles east of the southeastern Bahamas. Maximum sustained winds were 85 mph, making Dorian a Category 1 hurricane. It was moving northwest at 13 mph.

NHC has issued no watches or warnings as Dorian continues to move over the open waters of the Atlantic. Dorian is forecast to strengthen over the next few days and is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical-storm force winds extend outward s up to 90 miles.

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According to NHC’s tropical-storm-force wind-speed probabilities map, Pinellas County and most of Tampa Bay has a 60% chance of experience tropical storm force winds from Hurricane Dorian beginning Sunday or Sunday night.

The latest wind speed probability map shows a 60% chance that Pinellas County and Tampa Bay will experience tropical storm force winds, which range from 39-73 mph. Windy conditions are forecast to arrive on Sunday afternoon. However, that forecast will likely change.

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NHC predicts that tropical-storm-force winds are possible in the area most likely sometime on Sunday.

Rain chances in Pinellas are at 80% starting Friday, dropping to 70% on Saturday. Rain and windy conditions are expected on Sunday with continued chances of wind and rain on Monday.

Prepare now

Pinellas County officials are encouraging residents to finalize hurricane preparations not just for Dorian but because September is historically the most active month of the hurricane season.

Residents and businesses are urged to make sure they are following the three critical steps: Know your Risk, Make a Plan and Stay Informed. Registering for Alert Pinellas and downloading the Ready Pinellas app for iPhone and Android will help with the process.

Sunday, Sept. 1 marks the first day of National Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA to promote family and community disaster planning.

“It is important for everyone to be prepared in case our area is impacted by a hurricane this season,” said Cathie Perkins, Pinellas County Emergency Management Director. “This is the perfect time to look up your evacuation zone, get whatever supplies are needed to complete emergency Go Kits and Stay Kits and sign up for Alert Pinellas.”

The county’s free mobile application, Ready Pinellas, will help you create a personalized supply list to help you keep track of the supplies you need to finish a kit. You should gather enough supplies to last seven days.

Some essential items include:

• Water – at least 1 gallon of water per person per day

• Non-perishable food

• Non-electric can opener

• Medications and copies of prescriptions (you can get a 30-day refill once an Emergency Declaration is declared for Pinellas County.)

• Flashlight or lantern

• Battery-operated or hand-cranked radio

• Cell phone with charger, extra battery and solar charger

• Contacts in mobile device and in print for backup

• Extra batteries

• Cash

• Insect repellant

• Sunscreen

• Tarps

• First aid supplies

• Portable toilet

• Books, cards, board games

• Full tank of gas in vehicle

• Gas tank; extra gas if you have a generator

• Emergency Access Permit (for beach residents and businesses. Obtain one at city halls or online at pcsoweb.com/emergency-access-permit.)

For more information on disaster preparedness, visit the Pinellas County Emergency Management website at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency, or email to ema@pinellascounty.org. The county sends urgent safety notification through Alert Pinellas. Residents can sign up at www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas.

Register for special needs shelters by calling the Citizens Information Center at 727-464-4333 or by contacting local fire department. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/specialneeds.htm

Mobile and manufactured homes residents must prepare to always evacuate when an evacuation is ordered. Mobile homes, manufactured homes and recreational vehicles are not strong enough to withstand the strong winds of a hurricane.

Sign up for pet shelters now by visiting www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/petpreparedness.

Prepare now is the message of the day.

“All indications are that by this Labor Day weekend, a powerful hurricane will be near or over the Florida peninsula,” NHC meteorologists say.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.

Revised to include Pinellas County sandbag locations.