McLEAN’S TOWN CAY, Bahamas (AP) – Dorian has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane but continues to batter the Bahamas as it remains almost at a standstill.
At 2:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, the ferocious storm’s center was about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Freeport Grand Bahama Island. It has barely budged from that position since Monday afternoon.
But its wind speeds lessened slightly to 120 mph (193 kph) with higher gusts. That was down from 130 mph (209 kph) Monday evening.
The hurricane is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.
The National Hurricane center said Dorian is expected to move “dangerously close” to the Florida east coast late Tuesday through Wednesday evening and then move north to coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday night and Thursday.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the National Hurricane Center extended watches and warnings across the Florida and Georgia coasts. Forecasters expected Dorian to stay offshore, but meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned that “only a small deviation” could draw the storm’s dangerous core toward land.
By 2 p.m. EDT Monday, the storm’s top sustained winds fell slightly to 150 mph (240 kph). It was crawling along Grand Bahama Island at just 1 mph (2 kph).
The water reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. One woman filmed water lapping at the stairs of her home’s second floor.
In Freeport, Dave Mackey recorded video showing water and floating debris surging around his house as the wind shrieked outside.
“Our house is 15 feet up, and right now where that water is about 8 feet. So we’re pretty concerned right now because we’re not at high tide,” said Mackey, who shared the video with The Associated Press. “Our garage door has already come off. … Once we come out of it with our lives, we’re happy.”
On Sunday, Dorian churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and heavy flooding.
Henfield described the damage as “catastrophic” and said officials did not have information on what happened on nearby cays. “We are in search-and-recovery mode. … Continue to pray for us.”
A spokesman for Bahamas Power and Light told ZNS that there was a blackout in New Providence, the archipelago’s most populous island. He said the company’s office in Abaco island was flattened.
“The reports out of Abaco as everyone knows,” spokesman Quincy Parker said, pausing for a deep sigh, “were not good.”
Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. Many people were expected to be left homeless.
On Sunday, Dorian’s maximum sustained winds reached 185 mph (297 kph), with gusts up to 220 mph (354 kph), tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall. That equaled the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190 mph (305 kph) winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.
The Bahamas 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 that have wooden homes in low-lying areas.
Dorian was likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early Tuesday and curving to the northeast parallel to the southeastern coast of the U.S. The system is expected to spin 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 kilometers) off Florida, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the west.
An advisory from the hurricane center warned that Florida’s east-central coast could see a brief tornado sometime Monday afternoon or evening.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order Sunday for the mandatory evacuation of his state’s entire coast. The order, which covers about 830,000 people, was to take effect at noon Monday, at which point state troopers were to make all lanes on major coastal highways one-way heading inland.
“We can’t make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive,” McMaster said.
A few hours later, Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, ordered mandatory evacuations for that state’s Atlantic coast, also starting at midday Monday.
Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned his state that it could see heavy rain, winds and floods later in the week.
A hurricane watch was in effect for Florida’s East Coast from Deerfield Beach north to Altamaha Sound in Georgia. A storm surge watch was extended northward along the Georgia coast to the Savannah River. Lake Okeechobee was under a tropical storm watch.
Weekend traffic was light in Florida despite the many evacuation orders, unlike during the chaotic run-up to Hurricane Irma in 2017, when the unusually broad storm menaced the entire state.
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press writers Tim Aylen in McLean’s Town Cay, Seth Borenstein in Washington and Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to this report.
For AP’s complete coverage of the hurricane: https://apnews.com/Hurricanes .
Dorian first came ashore Sunday at Elbow Cay in Abaco island at 12:40 p.m., then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour at 2 p.m.
“Catastrophic conditions” were reported in Abaco, with a storm surge of 18 to 23 feet (5.5-7 meters).
Video that Jibrilu and government spokesman Kevin Harris said was sent by Abaco residents showed homes missing parts of roofs, electric lines on the ground and smashed and overturned cars. One showed floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town at nearly the height of a car roof.
In some parts of Abaco, “you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. According to the Nassau Guardian, he called it “probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people.”
Full Coverage: Hurricane Dorian
Bahamas radio station ZNS Bahamas reported that a mother and child on Grand Bahama had 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, who was riding out the hurricane with his family in the concrete home he built 41 years ago on central Abaco.
Jack Pittard, a 76-year-old American who has visited the Bahamas for 40 years, also decided to stay put on Abaco for Dorian, which he said was his first hurricane. A short video from Pittard about 2:30 p.m. Sunday showed the wind shaking his home and ripping off the siding.
The Bahamas 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.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Dorian is forecast to be 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 kilometers) off Florida, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the west.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Florida’s East Coast from Deerfield Beach north to the Georgia state line. The same area was put under a storm surge watch. Lake Okeechobee was under a tropical storm watch.
Mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying and flood-prone areas and mobile homes were in effect starting either Sunday or Monday 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 the unusually broad storm menaced the entire state.
Ken Graham, director of the hurricane center, urged people not to bet on safety just because the forecast track had the storm a bit offshore. With every new forecast, “we keep nudging (Dorian’s track) a little bit to the left” — that is, is closer to the Florida coast, Graham said.
President Donald Trump already declared a state of emergency and was briefed about what he called a “monstrous” storm.
“We don’t know where it’s going to hit but we have an idea, probably a little bit different than the original course,” Trump said. “But it can change its course again and it can go back more toward Florida.”
The hurricane season typically peaks between mid-August and late October. One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. was on Labor Day 1935. The unnamed Category 5 hurricanecrashed ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sept. 2. It was blamed for over 400 deaths.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Michael Balsamo in Washington; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Freida Frisaro and Marcus Lim in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; and Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
Watch live satellite tracking and forecasting of Hurricane Dorian as it heads toward Florida.