Reuters, CNN- In a slow, relentless advance, a catastrophic Hurricane Dorian kept pounding at the northern Bahamas early on Sept. 1, as one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded left wrecked homes, shredded roofs, tumbled cars and toppled power poles in its wake.
The storm’s top sustained winds decreased slightly to 175 mph (280 kph) while it spun along Grand Bahama island early Monday in what forecasters said would be a daylong assault. Earlier, Dorian churned over Abaco island with battering winds and surf during Sunday.
There was little information from the affected islands, though officials expected many residents to be left homeless. Most people went to shelters as the storm approached, with tourist hotels shutting down and residents boarded up their homes.
“It’s devastating,” Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, said Sunday afternoon. “There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported.”
The Abaco Islands have suffered major damage from Dorian, according to the Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue department. With winds reported up to 185 mph, now a category 5 storm, this is the strongest hurricane to hit the Bahamas.
There are multiple reports of destroyed houses and roofs blown off. The fire department will be doing damage assessment as soon as the storm passes the island.
“Now is not a time to panic now is the time to plan how to get the recovery started. Hope Town Fire and Rescue will be heading up the efforts for recovery,” the department posted to social media.
The Abaco Islands are a group of islands and barrier cays in the northern Bahamas, east of southern Florida. Hope Town is one of the districts of the Bahamas on the Abaco islands.
With winds clocking in at 185 mph, Hurricane Dorian is now the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas.
Here are some other facts and figures about Dorian:
- It is tied for second with the highest wind speed of any hurricane anywhere in the Atlantic in the modern era since 1950 (It is tied with Wilma in 2005, Gilbert in 1988 and just behind Allan in 1980 that had 190 mph winds)
- Dorian’s landfall in the Bahamas at 185 mph is stronger than Hurricane Irma’s landfalls in Barbuda, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands in 2017 (which was 180 mph).
- Hurricane Dorian rapidly intensified yet again today, increasing 35 mph in less than 8 hours between 5 a.m. ET (150 mph) and 12:45 p.m. ET (185 mph). Rapid Intensification of a hurricane is when its top wind speeds increase by 35 mph or more in 24 hours or less.
- Forecasters said Dorian was most likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early Tuesday and curving to the northeast parallel to the U.S. Southeast seaboard. Still, the potent storm was expected to stay close to shore and hammer the coast with dangerous winds and heavy surf, while authorities cautioned that it could still make landfall.
- South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order Sunday for the mandatory evacuation of his state’s entire coast. The order, which covers about 830,000 people, was to take effect at noon Monday, at which point state troopers were to make all lanes on major coastal highways one-way heading inland.
- “We can’t make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive,” McMaster said.A few hours later, Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, ordered mandatory evacuations for that state’s Atlantic coast, also starting at midday Monday.Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned his state that it could see heavy rain, winds and floods later in the week.Dorian first came ashore Sunday at Elbow Cay in Abaco island at 12:40 p.m., then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour at 2 p.m.”Catastrophic conditions” were reported in Abaco, with a storm surge of 18 to 23 feet (5.5-7 meters).
Video that Jibrilu and government spokesman Kevin Harris said was sent by Abaco residents showed homes missing parts of roofs, electric lines on the ground and smashed and overturned cars. One showed floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town at nearly the height of a car roof.
In some parts of Abaco, “you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. According to the Nassau Guardian, he called it “probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people.”
Bahamas radio station ZNS Bahamas reported that a mother and child on Grand Bahama had called to say they were sheltering in a closet and seeking help from police.
Silbert Mills, owner of the Bahamas Christian Network, said trees and power lines were torn down in Abaco.
“The winds are howling like we’ve never, ever experienced before,” said Mills, who was riding out the hurricane with his family in the concrete home he built 41 years ago on central Abaco.
Jack Pittard, a 76-year-old American who has visited the Bahamas for 40 years, also decided to stay put on Abaco for Dorian, which he said was his first hurricane. A short video from Pittard about 2:30 p.m. Sunday showed the wind shaking his home and ripping off the siding.
The Bahamas archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer neighborhoods, with wooden homes in low-lying areas.