Hurricane Dorian has killed at least five people in the Bahamas as the Category 2 storm stalled out over the 700-island Commonwealth nation located east of the Florida Keys. Category 5 winds of 157 mph or higher made landfall Sunday night, September 1, 2019.
Dorian is the strongest hurricane recorded in the Bahamas. To make matters worse, the hurricane stopped moving and stalled out over the archipelagic state for a day and a half, increasing the devastation.
On Monday, September 2, four U.S. states declared states of emergency ahead of the storm’s expected path. Residents of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina have been advised to evacuate. Those who decide to shelter in place are preparing to face powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and possible tornadoes and landslides.
That day, a woman on Great Abaco island, trapped in her apartment building with other occupants, posted a frightening video of the swirling waters that threatened her 4-month-old baby. The roof of the apartment building had been torn off by the catastrophic-force winds.
Maximum sustained winds of 140 mph were clocked that evening as Dorian snapped power lines and downed utility poles, blocking roads and creating very dangerous conditions for victims unable to escape. Bahamas Power and Light reported that New Providence, the country’s most populous island and home to the nation’s capital city of Nassau, a favorite vacation spot for international travelers.
The next day, Dorian destroyed thousands of Bahaman homes. At least two storm shelters were flooded. People trapped in attics cut their way out only to be stranded on the roof. One grandmother “told a local news outlet that her 8-year-old grandson drowned in the rising waters.”
So many residents have suddenly become homeless, with no power, and few provisions, that the United Nations and the International Red Cross are sending resources to help relieve the disaster’s victims.
The 70,000 people who live on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama took a real beating. The exclusive resort areas were flooded and whipped by forceful winds and flying or floating debris. Flights in and out of the Grand Bahama airport were canceled as the facility was submerged under 6 feet of water.
Speaking from the Bahamas, Matthew Cochrane with the Red Cross said that more than 13,000 houses – about 45% of the residences in Grand Bahama and Abaco – are thought to be severely damaged or destroyed.
Officials in the Bahamas reported a “tremendous” number of phone calls from panic-stricken victims who had been trapped inside their flooded homes. Many left messages for missing loved ones at local radio stations.
Rescuers used jet skis to reach some people stranded by the storm surge and heavy rains. The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted at least 21 injured people on Abaco to safety.
Speaking for the Bahaman National Emergency Management Agency, Tammy Mitchell explained that rescuers were hampered by the ferocity of the storm but every call for help had been logged and prioritized:
“We understand what everybody was going through. We wanted to go out there…but that’s not a risk we’re capable of taking. We don’t want people thinking we’ve forgotten them.”
More than 60,000 Bahama residents require emergency assistance, food, water, shelter, medical treatment, and a way to rejoin absent family and friends.
Dorian finally advanced very slowly – 2 mph, about as fast as a person walks – and headed toward the northwest, away from the Bahamas. Hurricane-force winds were measured up to 60 miles away. The wind speed had dropped from over 157 mph (Cat 5) to a still-punishing 110 mph (Cat 2). As much as 35 inches of rain fell on parts of the Bahamas.
The main hospital in Abaco’s Marsh Harbor survived the hurricane but its 400 patients were in need of food, water, medicines, and surgical supplies. Airlift crews were attempting to carry five to seven people with kidney failure to a facility where they could get dialysis, unavailable for the past four days.
Hurricane Dorian is expected to continue its westerly path as it turns northward and skirts the east coast of Atlantic Florida. Weather projections show the storm passing uncomfortably close to South Carolina on Thursday or Friday.
At 2 pm EDT on Tuesday, September 3, moving slowly northwest at 5 mph, Dorian’s eye (center) had made its way to about 65 miles north of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, and approximately 105 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida.
Millions of Americans are under mandatory evacuation orders. Check the National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center for a summary of watches and warnings in effect.