Monster storm Dorian unleashed ‘catastrophic conditions’ as it hit the northwestern Bahamas Sunday, becoming the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the region, US forecasters said.
‘Catastrophic hurricane conditions are occurring in the Abacos Islands and will spread across Grand Bahama Island later today and tonight,’ the National Hurricane Centre wrote in its latest bulletin at 1500 GMT.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 180 miles per hour, the NHC said Dorian was now ‘the strongest hurricane in modern records for the northwestern Bahamas.’
Dorian’s eye has reached 20 miles from the Abaco islands, and the hurricane’s core was expected to move directly over Great Abaco, and possibly Grand Bahama Island later Sunday and Monday, the NHC said.
Although some residents left for Nassau and elsewhere days ago, some 200 to 300 are riding out the storm on Great Guana Cay, where power was already out and forecasters are predicting up to 2 feet of rain and 20-foot storm surges, reports Reuters.
‘The other day the prime minister came out and said everybody in Abaco should leave,’ Creenan said by phone. ‘But there’s no place to go.’
‘This is the strongest hurricane that’s ever hit in the Bahamas,’ Creenan said. ‘I grew up in Florida, so I’ve been through Andrew.’
Hurricane Andrew slammed into eastern Florida in 1992 as a category 5 storm, obliterating the town of Homestead.
The US National Hurricane Centre said Dorian had maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour early on Sunday and was over Abaco. Wind gusts were recorded at over 200 mph.
After churning over the Bahamas, it is expected to veer northwest toward Florida, with the Miami-based NHC raising its alert on Sunday for parts of the state’s east coast to a tropical storm warning.
While not expected to strike Florida, the NHC cautioned residents to remain on alert and said ‘a Florida landfall is still a distinct possibility.’
Communities further north in Georgia and South Carolina raised alert levels on Saturday, with residents filling sandbags as authorities tested infrastructure and hurricane drills.
While Dorian could spare the United States a direct impact, the NHC warned the Category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale would lash millions from Florida to the Carolinas with strong winds and punishing surf.
‘This has been a slow-moving storm,’ Peter Gaynor, acting Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told CNN, adding the hurricane was expected to stall off of West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday and linger along the US coast until Friday. ‘This is a serious storm. You can’t take your eye off it. You have to make preparations now.’
Most tourists who planned to leave the Bahamas got out before the main airport closed on Friday night.
Jeffrey Simmons, the deputy director of Bahamas’ department of meteorology, said Dorian will cause prolonged periods of large swells and storm surges along the north coast of Grand Bahama and the north and east coast of Abaco.
Potential damage to the Bahamas from Dorian could be exacerbated by the fact that its westward motion is forecast to slow, keeping it over the islands for longer, the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.
Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis begged residents of Abaco and Grand Bahamas to head for the main island to escape the ‘devastating, dangerous’ storm.
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