Hurricane Dorian, tied as the most powerful storm to hit land anywhere in the Atlantic, battered the Bahamas, inflicting colossal damage to property and infrastructure across the chain of islands.
The hurricane brought winds with maximum sustained speeds of 274kph and 322kph gusts, as much as 76cm of rain in isolated areas, and a storm surge that could top 7m and leave the islands devastated for years.
The fate of Florida remains uncertain as the storm churns in the ocean just 200km away.
The storm ripped off roofs, overturned vehicles and tore down power lines in the Bahamas, the Associated Press reported.
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Director General David Johnson said that the impact has been “devastating,” but added that there had been no loss of life reported.
The storm is about 65km from Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.
“I wouldn’t want to be on the Abaco Islands, they are going to have 12 to 15 hours of hurricane force winds with only the eye as the respite,” Weather Underground cofounder Jeff Masters said. “Everything in that eye is going to get totaled. It is going to take them years, if not a decade, to recover.”
Its maximum sustained winds were 274kph at 3am, the National Hurricane Center said, describing the situation as “life-threatening.” Winds were earlier recorded at 298kph, which tied the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, which crushed the Florida Keys, as the strongest storm ever to hit land anywhere in the Atlantic, National Weather Service spokeswoman Maureen O’Leary said.
About 100,000 of the Bahamas population of 370,000 live in areas that are going to be hit by the storm, Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister Kevin Peter Turnquest said, adding that Abaco suffered “severe destruction of homes and infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, the threat to Florida and the eastern coast of the US remains uncertain.
A hurricane watch has been extended northward to the Florida-Georgia line and the mouth of the St Mary’s River, and remains in place from Lantana to the Volusia-Brevard county line.
While many people focus on winds, most hurricane deaths are caused by storm surge and drowning from flooding.
The hurricane was forecast to move dangerously close to Florida’s east coast yesterday evening through tomorrow evening, the National Hurricane Center said.
Fluctuations in weather patterns across the US and the Atlantic mean that Dorian could hit Florida, or further up the coast in Georgia or the Carolinas, later this week — or not make landfall at all.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, including for the Mar-a-Lago club owned by US President Donald Trump.
“Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the Florida east coast through mid-week,” center senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila wrote in a note. “Only a slight deviation to the left of the official forecast would bring the core of Dorian near or over the Florida east coast.”
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