Few in the Bahamas will be able to sleep tonight with Hurricane Dorian stalled over Grand Bahama Island, pounding it overnight with fierce winds and massive rainfall.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has confirmed at least five deaths on the Bahamas’ Abaco Island, calling the destruction in the northern Bahamas “unprecedented and extensive.”
Dorian is the strongest Atlantic hurricane to strike land in 84 years and the worst ever to hit the Bahamas.
“The images and videos we are seeing are heartbreaking,” he said at a news conference in Nassau. “Many homes, businesses, and other buildings have been completely or partially destroyed. There is an extraordinary amount of flooding and damage to infrastructure.”
Minnis says the U.S. National Guard is on Abaco to help with rescues, but the major rescue efforts will have to wait until the storm eases.
“I ask Bahamians and residents on islands not devastated by this monster storm to open their homes to friends, families, and others who may be in need. This is the time for us as Bahamians to show our love, our care, and our compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters.”
Dorian is a Category 4 hurricane with top sustained winds downgraded slightly late Monday to 225 kilometers per hour.
Meteorologists say the wind currents high in the atmosphere that dictate the direction a hurricane will move have been completely calm above Dorian, keeping the storm parked over the Bahamas.
But forecasters predict Dorian will remain a Category 4 as drifts “dangerously close” to the east coast of Florida late Tuesday and Georgia and South Carolina coasts 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.
Forecasters predict Dorian will remain a hurricane as it moves up the Atlantic seaboard this week. Forecast maps show the storm reaching an area off Nova Scotia, Canada by Saturday.