Dorian, second strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, hammers Bahamas
Millions of people from Florida to North Carolina hope Dorian avoids US and veers north into Atlantic
Hurricane Dorian crashed into the Bahamas on Sunday as the second strongest Atlantic storm on record, inching closer to the US mainland with parts of Florida evacuated and Georgia and the Carolinas bracing for wind and flooding.
The US National Hurricane Centre said Dorian hit Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 297kph and gusts of more than 354kph.
With it, it brought 10 to 15 inches of rain and a storm surge that could leave the islands devastated for years.
Millions of people from Florida to North Carolina were hoping Dorian avoided a US landfall and veered north into the Atlantic Ocean.
Even a glancing could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, and "a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility", the hurricane centre in Miami warned.
Bahamas residents reported trees snapping and docks being destroyed before the brunt of the storm arrived.
The pummelling was expected to last for hours and the hurricane might slow to just 1.6kph, "prolonging its catastrophic effects", the centre said.
“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.”
Roughly 100,000 of the 370,000 Bahamas population live in areas that are going to be hit by the storm, according to Bahamas Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kevin Peter Turnquest.
By mid-morning on Great Guana Cay, just off Great Abaco Island, waves began washing over low-lying parts of the 14-kilometre strand of land that is only about 400 metres wide, resident Tom Creenan said.
Although some residents left for Nassau and elsewhere days ago, up to 300 are riding out the storm on Great Guana Cay, where power was already out and forecasters are predicting up to 61 centimetres of rain and seven-metre storm surges.
"The other day the prime minister came out and said everybody in Abaco should leave," Mr Creenan said. "But there's no place to go."
"This is the strongest hurricane that's ever hit in the Bahamas. I grew up in Florida so I've been through Andrew."
Hurricane Andrew slammed into eastern Florida in 1992 as a category-five storm, obliterating the town of Homestead.
With winds at 297kph, Dorian ties with Gilbert in 1988, Wilma in 2005 and the 1935 Labour Day hurricane for the second strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, based on maximum sustained winds.
Allen in 1980 was the most powerful with 305kph winds, the centre said.
Dorian is the strongest hurricane on record to hit the north-western Bahamas.
Florida was taking no chances with Dorian and four Florida counties, including Palm Beach County, issued mandatory evacuations for some residents, including those in mobile homes, on barrier islands and in low-lying areas. Other coastal counties have announced voluntary evacuations.
US President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that the storm would likely impact the eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina.
"This looks monstrous," Mr Trump said during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "This looks like it could be larger than all of them."
FEMA is moving food, water and generators into the southeastern United States, said acting Administrator Peter Gaynor.
"When it comes to response, we are more than ready to deal with anything that Dorian delivers us this year, or any other storm that may come this season," he told CNN.
Updated: September 2, 2019 04:03 AM