RICHMOND — Hurricane Dorian won't take a path that lands a direct hit on central Virginia, but there's a chance that we could feel some minor effects from Thursday into Friday while the storm churns along the Carolina coastline.
For our neighbors in the coastal regions of North Carolina and Virginia — and those with interests there — there's a more serious concern for flooding, erosion, wind damage, high surf and heavy rain from Dorian.
On Monday, Dorian displayed its full fury as it stalled over Grand Bahama Island, just 100 miles east of the Florida peninsula, but hadn't yet made a definitive turn toward the mainland.
Rain bands bearing gusts above 40 mph arrived in Florida near West Palm Beach and Miami, a precursor to what will be felt farther north throughout Florida and Georgia in the coming days.
The timing and shape of Dorian's northwesterly turn will dictate just how close the catastrophic core of the storm will get to land.
Although sustained winds declined from 185 mph on Sunday to 145 mph on Monday, it remained an extremely dangerous storm. The size of Dorian's wind field is expanding, which means it won't have to make a direct landfall for life-threatening conditions to affect Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
For perspective, if Dorian's 25-mile-wide eye was placed over metro Richmond on Monday, the hurricane-force winds in excess of 74 mph would have reached 45 miles away to Williamsburg, and the tropical-storm force winds above 39 mph would be felt as far away as the Eastern Shore.
Dorian's future path is much clearer than it was at the start of the holiday weekend, and it rules out a scenario resembling that thought experiment.
After speeding northwestward from Puerto Rico, Dorian has been slowed and hemmed in over the Bahamas by sprawling ridges of high pressure over the western Atlantic and North America. Several days ago, computer models differed vastly about when and where Dorian would navigate through the larger weather pattern.
The range of scenarios has been whittled down with each round of new data, and now the uncertainty going forward is much smaller.
Over the rest of this week, the storm will creep northward through a weakness between those ridges, before taking a more decisive turn to the northeast and out to sea ahead of an approaching upper trough.
That path parallels the entire Southeast U.S. coast, reminiscent of Matthew in October 2016 (though it's not a literal repeat, as there are key differences between the two).
There is no plausible scenario where the eye crosses this far inland, a la Fran or Isabel.
If the Richmond area feels any effects from Dorian, it will be from the far western edge of its rain shield.
The amount of wind and water at the coast, however, will depend greatly on very subtle shifts in the position and speed of the eye.
A difference of 50 miles east or west will make the difference between the eye making landfall somewhere in the Carolinas, or staying entirely offshore. That same dynamic will also dictate whether Richmond will see a disruptive, soaking rain or just a few showers.
Fortunately, Dorian will be moving much faster by the time it moves this far north, which will limit the duration of inland rain and reduce the potential for flooding.
In any event, we'll see much less of Dorian than those off to our south and east.
Here's what to look for in the days ahead.
Dorian is still likely to be a major hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph centered just off the northeastern coast of Florida, and moving north. The region between Cape Canaveral and Savannah will experience peak storm surge, rain and winds. Tropical storm conditions and heavy rain will spread from coastal Georgia into South Carolina's low country. Precursor rain will also develop over eastern North Carolina, well ahead of the hurricane winds.
For central Virginia, it will be another mostly sunny and hot day, with high, thin clouds arriving late in the day ahead of Dorian. An approaching front could yield an isolated shower late Wednesday.
The hurricane will take a northeasterly turn that parallels the Georgia and South Carolina coast. Tropical storm conditions will ramp up between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, but relent across Florida. Heavy rain and flash flooding will become a major concern for eastern South Carolina.
Dorian will continue moving northeast, either directly along the North Carolina coast or just offshore. Forward speed is likely to increase, while sustained winds near the eye drop to Category 2 or Category 1 range. There's more uncertainty in Dorian's position by this point. The faster possibilities bring the eye to Cape Hatteras by sunset, while the slower scenarios keep it around South Carolina at the same time. The most probable position during the evening is somewhere between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout.
Either way, much of the North Carolina coast will feel tropical storm or hurricane conditions, with winds blowing onshore to begin.
Steady, heavy rain can be expected in the eastern half of North Carolina, which will spread into southeastern Virginia by late in the day.
Conditions will improve from Savannah to Charleston, but deteriorate around Hampton Roads.
Central Virginia will see increasingly cloudy skies, possibly with an intermittent shower. As a result, it won't be as hot.
The North Carolina coast will feel the brunt of Dorian, but its speed and position will dictate when the worst conditions arrive in the Outer Banks. Tropical storm-force winds could possibly build into Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore by daybreak. Winds and surge will ease in South Carolina.
If central Virginia is to see steady rain out of Dorian — which is still track-dependent — this would be the most likely time for it. Rain will be heaviest in Tidewater, but little to no moisture will make it inland to the western half of the state.
It will be noticeably breezy throughout the Piedmont, with stronger gusts in Tidewater.
Dorian will accelerate away from Cape Hatteras and head farther out to sea by Friday afternoon. The Outer Banks and the Eastern Shore will be gusty throughout the day, but with overall improvement.
Central Virginia could see morning showers and breezy conditions, but dry weather and clearing skies will become more likely as the day goes on.
As Dorian speeds to the northeast, coastal New England will bear the brunt of winds, rain and surf.
Look for updates throughout the week as more forecast details come into view.