Category 5 Hurricane Dorian Leaves a Trail of Bahamas Wreckage

Published September 2nd, 2019 - 11:26 GMT
Two elders looks at the ocean after a pouring rain while there are mandatory evacuation orders for parts of Palm Beach County in Lantana Beach, Florida on September 1, 2019.  (AFP/ File Photo)
Two elders looks at the ocean after a pouring rain while there are mandatory evacuation orders for parts of Palm Beach County in Lantana Beach, Florida on September 1, 2019. (AFP/ File Photo)
Highlights
The Category 5 hurricane made landfall with wind speeds of 185mph on Sunday, battering the Bahamas, destroying homes and tearing down power lines.

Hurricane Dorian was crawling across the Bahamas this morning as it battered the islands with 185mph winds that destroyed homes, shredded roofs and toppled power lines, with hundreds of thousands of Americans now preparing to evacuate as the storm moves into their path. 

The Category 5 hurricane was lingering over the island of Grand Bahama today, moving westward at just 1mph, wrecking 13,000 homes and leaving an airport under five feet of water amid 30 inches of rain.  

Dorian made landfall with wind speeds of 185mph yesterday, making it the second-strongest Atlantic storm on record, and the joint-strongest ever to hit land. 

A seven-year-old boy is believed to have drowned in the storm, which brought gusts up to 225mph, while experts warned of a possible storm surge that could send destructive waves barreling into the Bahamas. 

The storm is expected to move towards Florida later on Monday, as coastal dwellers flee their homes in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina amid warnings of 'life-threatening' weather conditions. 

The U.S. seaboard is not currently forecast to take a direct hit, but experts say the storm is still 'extremely dangerous' and even a glancing blow could bring torrential rain and destructive winds. 

In addition, Dorian could yet veer off course and hit the mainland, with Orlando and even Walt Disney World potentially under threat if the path of the storm changes. 

'This storm at this magnitude could really cause massive destruction. Do not put your life in jeopardy by staying behind when you have a chance to get out,' warned Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  

In Washington, President Donald Trump met with his emergency management chiefs and declared 'this looks monstrous.'    

Today the hurricane was pounding at the northern Bahamas in a slow, relentless advance, leaving wrecked homes, shredded roofs, tumbled cars and toppled power poles in its wake. 

This morning the storm was crawling westward at just 1mph, giving no respite to the Bahamas as it continues to lash the islands with destructive winds. 

Capsized boats floated in muddy brown water dotted with wooden boards, tree branches and other debris. 

It is expected to continue battering Grand Bahama through Monday, its top wind speeds still a menacing 165mph, before moving close to Florida's coast Monday night through Wednesday evening.  

The National Hurricane Center early Monday warned of 'catastrophic storm surge flooding' on Grand Bahama, urging residents to stay indoors.

'This is a life-threatening situation,' the NHC said.

'Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye.'

The NHC warned of 'storm surge 18 to 23 feet above normal tide levels with higher destructive waves.'

'These hazards will cause extreme destruction in the affected areas and will continue for several hours,' the agency said. 

Up to 30 inches of rain are expected and Grand Bahama International Airport was said to be under five feet of water in the early hours of Monday. 

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis broke down in tears as he addressed a news conference, calling it 'probably the most sad and worst day of my life.'

'We're facing a hurricane... one that we've never seen in the history of the Bahamas,' he said.  

The hurricane made its first landfall on the Abaco Islands on Sunday afternoon, causing 'catastrophic conditions' were with a storm surge of 18-23 feet, and Dorian was expected to cross Grand Bahama 'with all its fury'. 

Dorian first came ashore Sunday at Elbow Cay in Abaco island at 12.40pm, then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour at 2pm. 

In parts of Abaco 'you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins', said Prime Minister Minnis.  

Seven-year-old Lachino Mcintosh became the first victim of the hurricane when he drowned near his family's home in Abaco, according to Bahamas Press.

The young boy is reported to have drowned while his family was trying to seek shelter. Mcintosh's sister, whose age is unknown, is also reported to be missing.  

Footage taken by Abaco residents showed homes missing parts of their roofs, downed power lines and smashed and overturned cars.

Residents posted images of water rising up the side of their houses as the National Hurricane Center warned of a possible storm surge that could push destructive waves higher than many roofs in the islands. 

However, officials warned people against venturing out into the eye of the storm to take such videos.  

In the northern stretches of the archipelago, hotels closed, residents boarded up homes and officials hired boats to move people to bigger islands.   

On Sunday night, the hurricane had weakened slightly, with top sustained winds down to 180mph. Dorian is 'expected to remain a powerful hurricane' over the next few days, with possible fluctuations in intensity.   

There was little other information from the affected islands, though officials expected many residents to be left homeless. 

Most people went to shelters as the storm approached, with tourist hotels shutting down and residents boarded up their homes.  

In the U.S., the order to evacuate takes effect at noon on Monday, when state troopers will begin reversing lanes so that people can all head inland on major coastal highways. 

There are indications that the slow-moving Dorian will veer northeastward and track up the U.S. coast rather than making landfall on the mainland, but experts say it remains extremely dangerous.   

'Only a slight deviation would bring the core of Dorian near or over the Florida east coast', forecasters warned. 

Florida issued its first evacuation orders in parts of Palm Beach, home of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, and Martin Counties. 

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster says he is taking no chances despite forecasts saying that the storm will move parallel to the coast. 

McMaster's authorities say the order covers approximately 830,000 people, many of whom will be evacuating for the fourth time in four years. 

'We can't make everybody happy,' McMaster said. 'But we believe we can keep everyone alive.'

Georgia's governor Brian Kemp also ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state's Atlantic coast, also starting at noon on Monday. Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas.

More than 600 Labor Day flights in the US had been cancelled as of Sunday afternoon, many of them in Florida as Dorian barrelled towards the state's coast.  

Julia Eaddy, 70, in Titusville, Florida, said she and her husband had ridden out several hurricanes before and were not fazed by the forecast. 'I think it will be more of the same,' she said.

Several gasoline stations around Titusville were closed. Many grocery stores were open but boarded up. Inside, shelves emptied out fast. 

The National Hurricane Center has extended hurricane and storm surge watches northward in Florida to the Georgia state line as the Category 5 storm continues to pound the northern Bahamas. 

The hurricane center warns of life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds along portions of Florida's east coast later in the week. 

Specialists say strong winds and dangerous storm surge are increasingly likely along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  

Hurricane specialists say there is also an increasing likelihood of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina later in the week when Dorian is expected to track up the Southeast seacoast.

Mandatory evacuation orders in Florida for low-lying and flood-prone areas and mobile homes cover from Palm Beach County north to at least the Daytona Beach area, and some counties to the north issued voluntary evacuation notices.

Weekend traffic was light in Florida despite those orders, unlike during the chaotic run-up to Hurricane Irma in 2017 when unusually broad Irma menaced the entire state. 

Current forecasts show only Florida's east coast is affected, meaning residents may choose to flee westward.   

Governor Ron DeSantis said at a Sunday evening briefing that the light traffic might also be in part due to many residents being seasonal and living elsewhere or already having departed on Labor Day trips. 

He says remaining residents need to closely monitor forecasts and announcements. 'Please prepare, because this thing is a big boy,' DeSantis said. 

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'That could produce life-threatening storm surge and hurricane force winds,' he said, adding that some forecast models still bring Dorian close to or even onto the Florida peninsula.  

'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.' 

With its maximum sustained winds of 185mph and gusts up to 220mph, Dorian tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore, equaling the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before the storms were named.

It was also tied with Hurricanes Gilbert (2005) and Wilma (1988).   

The National Hurricane Center forecasts Dorian to be 40 to 50 miles off the Florida coast on Tuesday and Wednesday, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles to the west. 

The flight tracking site FlightAware counted 610 cancellations for Monday. Nearly 300 of them are flying into or out of Florida airports. 

There are also cancellations in North Carolina, Atlanta, Maryland and elsewhere. In comparison, 336 flights had been canceled for Sunday. 

Orlando International Airport, which so far is expected to see 119 cancellations, says it is monitoring the hurricane but remains open.

Florida resident Mike Lafferty boarded up his house near Vero Beach days ago. 

He says days of waiting can be bothersome, but it beats being caught unprepared. 

The National Hurricane Center has a 60 percent chance of the Vero Beach area getting hurricane force winds before early Wednesday. 

'You have to be ready for it,' Lafferty said.     

Hurricane Dorian batters the Bahamas

Video authorities say is being circulated by residents of Abaco in the Bahamas shows homes missing parts of their roofs, utility lines down and cars overturned by Hurricane Dorian. One of the videos shows floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is lamenting the devastation from Dorian, a Category 5 monster that began battering northwest portions of the archipelago on Sunday. 

He says that on parts of the island of Abaco, 'you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins.'

According to the Nassau Guardian, Minnis is calling it 'probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people.'

'It's devastating,' said Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. 

'There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported.'

Hours later, it was reported that at least one person, a 7-year-old boy, drowned in Abaco. 

Earlier, Minnis had warned that anyone who did not evacuate was 'in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence.'

The government opened 14 shelters across the Bahamas. Dozens ignored evacuation orders, officials said.

'The end could be fatal,' said Samuel Butler, assistant police commissioner. 

'We ask you, we beg you, we plead with you to get to a place of safety.'

Bahamas radio station ZNS Bahamas reported a mother and child in Grand Bahama called to say they were sheltering in a closet and seeking help from police.

Silbert Mills, owner of the Bahamas Christian Network, said trees and power lines were torn down in Abaco.

'The winds are howling like we've never, ever experienced before,' said Mills, 59, who planned to ride out the hurricane with his family in the concrete home he built 41 years ago in central Abaco.

Earlier Saturday, skiffs shuttled between outlying fishing villages and McLean's Town, a settlement of a few dozen homes at the eastern end of Grand Bahama island, about 150 miles from Florida's Atlantic coast. 

Most came from Sweetings Cay.

'They said evacuate, you have to evacuate,' said Margaret Bassett, a ferry boat driver for the Deep Water Cay resort.

But Jack Pittard, a 76-year-old American who has visited the Bahamas for 40 years, decided to ride out the storm - his first hurricane - in Abaco.

He said he battened down his house to spend the storm in a nearby duplex. He noted the ocean is quite deep near where he was staying, and there is a cay that provides protection.

A short video from Pittard about 2:30pm showed winds shaking his home and ripping off its siding.

Over two or three days, the hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet of rain, in addition to the winds and storm surge, said private meteorologist Ryan Maue.

Harris, the government spokesman, said Dorian could affect 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes. 

Authorities closed airports for Abaco, Grand Bahama and Bimini, but Lynden Pindling International Airport in the capital of Nassau stayed open. 

The archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. 

Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. 

Risks are higher in poorer neighborhoods, with wooden homes in low-lying areas.

Dorian is also tied for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record, on par with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.  

'This is a life-threatening situation. Residents there should take immediate shelter. Do not venture into the eye if it passes over your location,' the NHC said in an advisory after landfall. 

As the eyewall of the storm hit the island, it bent utility poles and snapped trees and beat buildings with the howling wind.

Minnis announced Sunday parts of Marsh Harbor - a town of more than 6,000 - appeared to be 'underwater', sending desperate locals onto their roofs for shelter from the floodwaters.

In one heartbreaking video a mother is heard pleading for help and prayers as she is stuck in the upper level of her Abaco Islands home with her baby while huge floods of water inundate the street.

As Dorian battered the islands and swirled perilously close to the U.S., Florida issued an official hurricane watch from Boca Raton through Brevard County and evacuations for its eastern coast - including President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.   

The U.S. South braces for impact 

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.

McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, mobilizing state resources to prepare for potential storm effects. 

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced emergency measures, including the lifting of restrictions on transportation.

'Now is the time to prepare and take Dorian seriously,' said Cooper. 

'This storm could cause serious damage and bring dangerous conditions to our state. I urge everyone to follow the forecast and listen to their local first responders.' 

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, though it may still strike in the Sunshine State. 

Carmen Segura said she had installed hurricane shutters at her house in Miami, bought extra gas and secured water and food for at least three days. 

She felts well prepared and less worried given the latest forecasts but was still uneasy given the storm's unpredictability.

'Part of me still feels like: So, now what?' Segura said.

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. On Saturday, the shutters were up at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

President Trump tweeted: 'Looking like our great South Carolina could get hit MUCH harder than first thought. Georgia and North Carolina also. It's moving around and very hard to predict, except that it is one of the biggest and strongest (and really wide) that we have seen in decades. Be safe!'

On Saturday night, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump was receiving briefings and updates at Camp David.   

'It's an extremely dangerous hurricane, and while some are reporting changes in the track, anyone in the path of Hurricane Dorian should listen to state and local and first responders and public safety personnel and heed their warnings,' Pence said.

Pence says FEMA officials are reassessing where to deploy assets as they track the hurricane.

Florida's scramble 

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.

Sherry Atkinson, who manages a hotel on North Carolina's Outer Banks, said the hurricane wasn't spoiling holiday vacations for guests. 

'So far, there hasn't even been a snippet of conversation about evacuations,' she said.

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.

DeSantis said Friday the Florida Highway Patrol would soon begin escorting fuel trucks to help resupply gas stations in advance of the hurricane.

Gasbuddy, whose representatives helped state officials track fuel shortages in 2017 during Hurricane Irma, reported on Friday that more than half of the gas stations in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area were already out of fuel because of drivers stocking up on fuel before the storm hits.   

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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