Hurricane Dorian, a powerful Category 5 storm, turned deadly as it roared over the Bahamas on Sunday. The storm made landfall on three different islands with punishing sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts that reached speeds of 225 mph.
Late Sunday night, the first recorded death in Abaco following Hurricane Dorian was confirmed. Seven-year-old Lachino McIntosh drowned and his sister remains missing, according to the Bahamas Press. His death occurred after his family attempted to relocate their home.
Dorian has proved to be a historic hurricane, the strongest ever during modern record-keeping to make landfall in the Bahamas and, with sustained 185-mph winds, it’s now the second-strongest hurricane, by wind speed, ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Dorian now stands behind only Hurricane Allen, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. Allen thundered over the Gulf of Mexico in August 1980 and reached sustained wind speeds of 190 mph before making landfall near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Hurricane Dorian made its initial landfall at Elbow Cay, Abacos, in the Bahamas. The eye of Dorian then made a second landfall on Great Abaco Island near Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. The third landfall came later on Sunday night, the eye encroaching the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island. Maximum sustained winds were 185-mph during the first two landfalls, dropping to 180 mph for the third. Gusts of 225, as AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer pointed out, were equivalent to the winds of an EF4 tornado.
“I have seen utter devastation here in Marsh Harbour. We are surrounded by water with no way out,” ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore told the news station. “Absolution devastation, there really are no words it is pure hell here on Marsh Harbour on Avoca Island in the northern part of the Bahamas.”
Since 1851 the Treasure Cay area in the Abacos Bahamas has experienced three major hurricanes, all of which were Category 3 hurricanes, according to the NWS Charleston. Prior to Dorian, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was the only other Category 5 hurricane to pass through the Bahamas.
In Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, residents hunkered down in a church that was being used for a shelter. Photos and videos surfacing on social media showed powerful winds whipping palm trees, flooding and some severe damage to residences.
“This is probably the saddest and worst day for me to address the Bahamian people,” the Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis wrote in a Twitter post Sunday afternoon. “We are facing a hurricane that we have never seen in the Bahamas. Please pray for us.”
In addition to some places in the Bahamas seeing up to 30 inches of rain, severe storm surge could be devastating.
By early Monday morning, Dorian had slowed to a crawl, swirling west at just 1 mph, about 115 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida and only 35 miles east of Freeport in Grand Bahama Island. Dorian has maintained its status as a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 165 mph. As the storm slowly drew nearer to Florida’s Atlantic coast, the National Hurricane Center issued its first hurricane warnings and watches for parts of the Sunshine State.
The storm’s outer bands were reaching the Florida coast as of late Sunday night, bringing tropical downpours and gusty winds.
The first mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Sunday for St. Johns County, St. Lucie County and Martin County and parts of Palm Beach County, including where President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended traffic tolls after the first evacuation orders went into effect at 1 p.m. “Hurricane Dorian is one of the strongest storms that’s ever threatened Florida. If you live in a county with evacuation orders, please heed the call,” DeSantis implored Floridians.
President Trump has also been issuing warnings about the power of Dorian. “It seems to be one of the biggest hurricanes we’ve ever seen, and that’s a problem,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Sunday. “It seems to be going up toward South Carolina, toward North Carolina. Georgia’s going to be hit. Alabama’s gonna get a piece of it.” Trump added. He posted a similar statement on Twitter as well.
The latest weather forecasts indicate that Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian. The five-day forecast shows sunshine and temperatures in the 90s for Birmingham for the first week of September. But from Florida up through Georgia and the Carolinas, people were on edge. States of emergency have been in place for days.
While Dorian is a very powerful storm, AccuWeather meteorologists point out that it’s small in size, something that could be critical depending on the track it takes as it approaches the southeastern coast of the U.S. Satellite images of Dorian still portray the hurricane as a relatively small feature. Hurricane-force winds only extend outward from the hurricane by about 45 miles, while tropical-storm-force winds extend outward from the center of the hurricane by about 140 miles.
Forecasters say Dorian could still deliver a glancing blow to the east coast of Florida, bringing hurricane conditions from Jupiter Inlet to the Volusia-Brevard County Line and tropical storm conditions up and down much of coast, even if its eye stays offshore and never makes landfall there. Beyond that, landfall is not out of the question for the Carolinas as Dorian slowly marches up the East Coast this week.
In places along the Florida coast like Melbourne Beach, residents continue to hold their breath.
“A lot of folks have boarded up. You see the shutters up, folks not ready to believe that this is going to stay off the coast,” AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala said.
As the hurricane continued to chug along at 6 mph after making its third landfall in the Bahamas, Florida began to feel the outer bands of the storm.
“Dorian is still expected to track dangerously close to the Florida coast early this week. A landfall in the state of Florida is not out of the realm of possibility,” Buckingham said. “Landfall or not, many coastal communities from West Palm Beach north to the Carolinas could see hurricane-force wind gusts.”
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Hurricane Dorian has continued to stall over Grand Bahama Island, dumping heavy rainfall on the area and staying steady in its slow progress. At the latest report, the maximum sustained winds are at 165 mph with hurricane-force winds extending 45 miles outward from the center. A storm surge warning remains in place for the next 36 hours.
According to authorities and Red Cross officials, Dorian has damaged as many as 13,000 houses. The extensive flooding on the island is believed to have contaminated wells with saltwater.