Packing maximum sustained winds of 180 miles per hour (285 kph), the NHC said Dorian was now "the strongest hurricane in modern records for the northwestern Bahamas".
The slow-crawling storm was predicted to take until Monday afternoon to pass over the Bahamas, and then turn sharply and skirt up the US coast, staying just off Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday and then buffeting SC and North Carolina on Thursday.
"A prolonged period of life-threatening storm surge, devastating hurricane-force winds, and heavy rains capable of producing life-threatening flash floods are expected on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama through Monday", said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist at the center.
The "extremely dangerous" storm was expected to hit the island chain on Sunday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, before making landfall on the US east coast.
In short, this is a storm that, depending on its exact track over the northern Bahamas, particularly Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, could reshape these locations for decades.
"Catastrophic conditions occurring in the Abacos islands", the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin.
The storm is about 225 miles (360 km) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
"We are asking residents in those areas to leave the coastline, we expect a storm surge of up to 15 feet, in addition to that we have a spring tide that can increase the surge by 2 to 3 feet", Mr Simmons added.
In case of a Category 5 hurricane, a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse, according to the explanation of the wind scale categorization.
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Video footage has captured the intense force of Hurricane Dorian, as the storm made landfall in the Bahamas, bringing 300 kph winds that have levelled buildings, uprooted trees, and smashed vehicles.
Palm Beach County ordered a mandatory evacuation for the eastern half of the county as of 1 p.m. Sunday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Dorian is forecast to be 40 to 50 miles off the Florida with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles to the west.
Forecasters say if Dorian stays as powerful as it is now, it would be the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 which caused massive destruction.
After hitting the Bahamas, it should move closer to the Florida east coast late on Monday through Tuesday night local time.
"Some fluctuations in intensity are likely, and Dorian is expected to remain a catastrophic hurricane during the next few days".
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents along that state's densely populated Atlantic coast, "We're not out of the woods yet".
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham urged residents not to bet on safety just because the specific forecast track has the storm just a bit offshore. The global hurricane database goes back continuously only to 1983.
In coastal North Carolina, major flooding could result from the storm surge, the storm-driven rise in ocean water above normally dry land. There is also the possibility of a landfall.
The northern Bahamas was already witnessing Dorian's strength, with heavy wind and rain pounding the islands.