People in the Bahamas experienced another hellish night as the center of powerful Hurricane Dorian sat stationary on the northern edge of Grand Bahama Island and pounded the area with fierce winds and the flooding effects of heavy rains and storm surge.
Dorian made landfall on the island late Sunday night and barely moved throughout the day Monday. Forecasters expect the storm to finally move away during the day Tuesday and threaten the U.S. state of Florida.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of northern Bahamas,” said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. “Our mission and focus now is search, rescue, and recovery. I ask for your prayers in those in affected areas and for our first responders.”
He told reporters at a Monday news conference there were five confirmed deaths on Abaco Island, where Dorian struck before moving to Grand Bahama. Minnis said initial reports from Abaco were of devastation that is “unprecedented and extensive.”
What the storm did to Grand Bahama will become more clear as it moves away and authorities are able to survey the island.
“We know that there are a number of people in Grand Bahama who are in serious distress and we will provide relief and assistance as soon as possible after the Met (Meteorology) Department has given the all clear. I strongly urge the residents of Grand Bahama to remain indoors and be as safe as possible until the all clear is given by the appropriate authorities,” Minnis said.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Dorian had weakened from its peak strength, but remained a extremely powerful storm with maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour early Tuesday.
Forecasters expect Dorian to drift “dangerously close” to the east coast of Florida by late Tuesday and the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hurricane warnings are posted from just north of Miami to the Florida-Georgia border. Millions from Florida to South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.
A National Guard spokesman says there has been almost no resistance from people being told they have to get out.
“People do understand that Dorian is nothing to mess around with,” he said.
Even if Dorian does not make landfall on the Atlantic Coast, the storm’s hurricane-force winds extend 56 kilometers to the west. Towns and cities can still expect up to 25 centimeters of rain, life-threatening flash floods, and some tornadoes.
Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz says “Hurricane Dorian is the strongest storm to ever threaten the state of Florida on the East Coast. No matter what path this storm takes, our state will be impacted.”