McLEAN’S TOWN CAY, Bahamas — Hurricane Dorian bore down on the northern Bahamas on Saturday with howling winds, surging seas and a threat of torrential rains, forcing some evacuations and hotel closures ahead of the fierce Category 4 storm.

Forecasters expected Dorian, packing 150 mph winds, to hit the northwestern Bahamas today before heading near Florida and then skirting along or off the U.S. Southeast seacoast. The projected turn north in the coming days could spare the U.S. a direct hit, but would still threaten Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with powerful winds and rising ocean water that could cause potentially deadly flooding.

In the northern Bahamas, tourists were sent to government shelters in schools, churches and other buildings offering protection from the storm while residents were evacuating.

“My home is all battened up, and I’m preparing right now to leave in a couple of minutes. ... We’re not taking no chances,” said Margaret Bassett, a ferry boat driver for the Deep Water Cay resort. “They said evacuate, you have to evacuate. It’s for the best interests of the people.”

Over two or three days, the hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet of rain, unleash devastating winds and whip up a dangerous storm surge, said private meteorologist Ryan Maue and some of the most reliable computer models.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned that Dorian is a “dangerous storm,” saying that people “who do not evacuate are placing themselves in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence.”

Government spokesman Kevin Harris told The Associated Press that the hurricane was expected to affect some 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes.

Sweeting Cay, a fishing town of a few hundred people that is about 5 feet above sea level and was expected to be left completely underwater.

After walloping the northern Bahamas, Dorian was expected to dance up the U.S. Southeast coast, staying just off the shores of Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday before skirting South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, mobilizing state resources to prepare for potential storm effects. President Donald Trump already declared a state of emergency.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami stressed that Dorian could still hit Florida, where millions of people have been in the storm’s changing potential path. But after days of predictions that put the state in the center of expected landfalls, the hurricane’s projected turn northeast was significant.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents along the state’s Atlantic coast, “We’re not out of the woods yet.” He noted some forecast models still bring Dorian close to or even onto the Florida peninsula.

“That could produce life-threatening storm surge and hurricane force winds,” DeSantis said. “That cone of uncertainty still includes a lot of areas on the east coast of Florida and even into central and north Florida, so we are staying prepared and remaining vigilant.”

He said he spoke with Trump, who pledged any help Florida needs.

Some counties in Florida told residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying areas to be ready to flee in the coming days.

The storm upended some Labor Day weekend plans: Major airlines allowed travelers to change their reservations without fees, big cruise lines began rerouting their ships and Cumberland Island National Seashore off Georgia closed to visitors. Disney World and Orlando’s other resorts held off announcing any closings.

Late in the afternoon, Dorian was centered about 170 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 355 miles east of West Palm Beach as it moved westward at 8 mph.

A portion of Florida’s east coast was placed under a tropical storm watch Saturday, with winds of 39 to 73 mph possible within two days.

Some islands in the Bahamas remained under a hurricane warning, with winds of 74 mph or greater expected.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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