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Trump cancels Poland visit as hurricane Dorian poses increasing threat to Florida over Labour Day weekend

Click to play video: 'Trees violently thrash around as Hurricane Dorian hits U.S. Virgin Islands' Trees violently thrash around as Hurricane Dorian hits U.S. Virgin Islands
WATCH: Trees violently thrash around as hurricane Dorian hits U.S. Virgin Islands – Aug 29, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled his planned weekend trip to Poland as hurricane Dorian barrels toward Florida.

Trump, announcing the last-minute change of plans at a Rose Garden signing ceremony, said it was “very important” for him to be in Washington to deal with the storm, which the National Hurricane Center predicts will make landfall on Labor Day as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds.

“Our highest priority is the safety and security of the American people in the path of the hurricane,” Trump said.

WATCH: Trump postpones Poland trip, sends Mike Pence instead citing hurricane Dorian as reason

Click to play video: 'Trump postpones Poland trip, sends Mike Pence instead citing Hurricane Dorian as reason' Trump postpones Poland trip, sends Mike Pence instead citing Hurricane Dorian as reason
Trump postpones Poland trip, sends Mike Pence instead citing Hurricane Dorian as reason – Aug 29, 2019

Trump had been scheduled to depart for Warsaw Saturday for a visit to commemorate the 80th anniversary of World War II. He said he’ll be sending Vice-President Mike Pence in his place.

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It’s the second time Trump has cancelled a trip in recent weeks. Trump had originally been scheduled to fly from Poland to Copenhagen for his first official trip to Denmark but cancelled after leaders there mocked his desire to purchase Greenland.

Trump said he delivered the news to Polish President Andrzej Duda earlier Thursday and plans to reschedule the trip — which would have been his second to Warsaw — in the “near future.”

Currently a Category 1 storm, Dorian is expected to strengthen into a potentially catastrophic Cat 4 and slam into the U.S. on Monday somewhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia.

Florida prepares

Leaving mercifully little damage in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, a strengthening Dorian posed an increasing menace to Florida on Thursday as it swirled toward a possible direct hit on the state over Labor Day weekend.

Along much of Florida’s east coast, shoppers rushed to stock up on food and emergency supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores and picked the shelves clean of bottled water. Lines formed at service stations as motorists topped off their tanks and filled gasoline cans.

READ MORE: Dorian strengthens to hurricane near U.S. and British Virgin Islands

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Forecasters said the Category 1 hurricane is expected to bulk up into a potentially catastrophic Cat 4 with winds of 130 mph (209 kph) before broadsiding the U.S. on Monday somewhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia — a 500-mile stretch that reflected the high degree of uncertainty this far out.

Hurricane Dorian tracking toward Florida on Aug. 29, 2019 after hitting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. SkyTracker/Global News

Trump said Florida is “going to be totally ready.” He tweeted: “Be prepared and please follow State and Federal instructions, it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!”

Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, went to a Publix supermarket in Miami only to find empty shelves in the water section and store employees unsure of when new cases would arrive.

“I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened,” she said. “What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?”

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As of late Thursday morning, Dorian was centred about 220 miles (355 kilometres) northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, its winds blowing at 85 mph (140 kph) as it moved northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

The National Hurricane Center’s projected track had the storm blowing ashore midway along the Florida peninsula, southeast of Orlando and well north of Miami. But because of the difficulty of predicting its course this far ahead, the “cone of uncertainty” covered nearly the entire state.

SkyTracker/Global News

Also imperiled were the Bahamas, with Dorian’s projected track running just to the north of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.

The storm is expected to pick up steam as it pushes out into warm waters with favourable winds, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, adding: “Starting tomorrow, it really has no obstacles left in its way,” he said.

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“If it makes landfall as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, that’s a big deal,” he said. “A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency, clearing the way to bring in more fuel and call out the National Guard if necessary, and local governments distributed sandbags. Some residents used community Facebook groups to share updates on grocery stores getting new shipments of water.

WATCH: Florida Governor urges residents to have a plan ahead of Dorian

Click to play video: 'Florida Governor urges residents to have a plan ahead of Tropical storm Dorian' Florida Governor urges residents to have a plan ahead of Tropical storm Dorian
Florida Governor urges residents to have a plan ahead of Tropical storm Dorian – Aug 28, 2019

At the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, NASA decided to move indoors the mobile launch platform for its new mega rocket under development.

Dorian blew through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday.

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Puerto Rico seemed to be spared any heavy wind and rain, a huge relief on an island where blue tarps still cover some 30,000 homes nearly two years after hurricane Maria. The island’s 3.2 million inhabitants also depend on an unstable power grid that remains prone to outages since it was destroyed by Maria.

WATCH: Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane

Click to play video: 'Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico' Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico
Dorian slams into U.S. Virgin Islands as Category 1 hurricane on its way to Puerto Rico – Aug 28, 2019

Several hundred customers were without power across Puerto Rico, said Angel Figueroa, president of a utility workers union. Police said an 80-year-old man in the town of Bayamon died after he fell trying to climb to his roof to clear it of debris ahead of the storm.

Dorian caused an island-wide blackout in St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and scattered outages in St. Croix, government spokesman Richard Motta said.

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No serious damage was reported in the British Virgin Islands, where Gov. Augustus Jaspert said crews were already clearing roads and inspecting infrastructure by late Wednesday afternoon.

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