Hurricane Dorian wreaks havoc in the Bahamas with ‘catastrophic’ winds reaching 225 miles per hour
Hurricane Dorian became the strongest storm on modern record to strike the northern Bahamas as "catastrophic winds and storm surge" thrashed the Abaco Islands on Sunday.
The storm strengthened to a Category 5 shortly before it made landfall, causing residents to scramble to find shelter amid torrential rains and peak winds of 225 miles per hour.
Federal forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said the core of the storm was slowing as it swept through the Bahamas, with Dorian expected to soon hit Grand Bahama Island.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis of the Bahamas, who warned that 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes could be affected, urged people in Grand Bahama Island to move to safer ground in Freeport.
“As a physician, I have been trained to withstand many things — but never anything like this,” Dr Minnis said at a news conference. “This is a deadly storm and a monster storm.”
The storm is now expected to bring severe winds, coastal flooding and further rain to the southeast coast of the US. A hurricane warning is in place from West Palm Beach to Titusville.
In an earlier update, forecasters had warned the storm had become extremely intense, and advised people to remain alert even though Hurricane Dorian is not predicted to make landfall in the US.
“A small deviation to the left of the track could bring the intense core of the hurricane and its dangerous winds closer to or onto the coast,” forecasters at the NHC announced.
The NHC said on Sunday night that maximum sustained winds around the eye of the storm had begun to exceed 220 miles per hour – three times the wind speed to qualify as a hurricane.
Officials at the NHC added those winds extended 45 miles outward from the middle of the storm, with tropical storm-force winds as much as 140 miles beyond Hurricane Dorian’s eye.
The storm has become one of the most intense in the Atlantic in the last century.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for parts of coastal Florida in preparation for Hurricane Dorian, including the site of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Estate.
Little over an hour after the storm made landfall and began wreaking havoc in the northern Bahamas, Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced the evacuation of some coastal communities.
Amid the evacuation orders, toll charges have been suspended to allow people to make their escape, while several airlines have capped fares for flights out of Florida.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall twice in the Bahamas’ Abaco Islands early on Sunday afternoon with winds of 185 miles per hour that toppled overhead power lines and tore roofs off houses.
Dr Minnis broke down in tears as he addressed a news conference, calling it "probably the most sad and worst day of my life," the Nassau Guardian reported.
INSIDE THE EYE OF HURRICANE DORIAN – Views of the "stadium effect" eyewall from #NOAA42 "Kermit" inside the eye of Hurricane #Dorian earlier today. Forecasts and advisories at https://t.co/3phpgKMZaS, preparation tips at https://t.co/ZUC1oGAvw6 #FlyNOAA (credit Ian Sears, NOAA) pic.twitter.com/gu8rCmVAbO
— NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (@NOAA_HurrHunter) September 1, 2019
The Abaco Islands were reported to be under water as forecasters warned it was facing a towering 18 to 23 feet storm surge. Winds were gusting over 220 mph, the NHC said.
Around 28,000 Britons people visit the Bahamas annually and the islands have enjoyed a bumper year for tourism.
According to the latest projections Dorian, which on Sunday morning was around 225 miles off West Palm Beach, Florida, will batter the Bahamas for up to 24 hours before turning north.
Both the European and US models show the hurricane turning north on Monday night with winds still at 140 miles per hour, but remaining offshore.
By the early hours of Thursday morning, with the wind having dropped to around 100 mph, Dorian is expected to be off the shore of Georgia, before reaching North Carolina on Friday.
Even though the centre of the hurricane is now projected to remain off the US mainland, the states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina are still bracing themselves for heavy rainfall and storm damage.
“This storm has been particularly difficult, a lot of uncertainty,” Peter Gaynor, acting administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told NBC’s Meet the Press.
“The time now is for residents to really prepare. It is going to impact Florida, it is going to impact Georgia, it is going to impact the Carolinas and now is the time to make those preparations.”
Mr Gaynor warned that people should not become complacent even though the projections suggested the hurricane would stay offshore.
“I think the mistake most people make is they follow that thin black line and think that is the exact location they think the storm will be in.
“Your really have to look at the ‘cone of uncertainty’. If you look at that it really covers the majority of Florida and as you go north great parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.
“We are not out of this just yet.”
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