At Least Five Dead As Hurricane Dorian Barrels Towards US
Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas on Monday, shredding roofs, hurling cars and forcing rescue crews to take shelter.
By early afternoon, the storm's top sustained winds fell to 249 km/h -- down from 297km/h hours earlier -- as it inched along on its path of destruction, the National Hurricane Center said.
Storm surges in some places were raising water levels more than five metres above normal. Authorities urged people to find floating devices as the storm triggered major flooding across Grand Bahama island. Dorian was ripping off roofs, overturning cars and tearing down power lines as people hunkered down in schools, churches and shelters.
Though the hurricane center was still forecasting that Dorian would stay just off the US coast as it makes its way up the seaboard, evacuations were ordered for parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts.
Dorian's center was some 40 kilometres northeast of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, and about 168 kilometres east of West Palm Beach, Florida, the hurricane center said. The storm was barely budging, moving west at about 1.6 km/h.
Dorian tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to come ashore in the Bahamas, equaling the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. At least five deaths have been confirmed.
Homes Destroyed In Massive Floods
Dorian unleashed massive flooding across Grand Bahama island. Minister of State Kwasi Thompson told ZNS Bahamas radio station that officials were getting many calls from people in distress.
A video circulated on social media purports to show the storm surge threatening the Grand Bahama home of Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard. The narrator of the video can be heard saying that the ocean is hitting his kitchen window.
"This is what I'm facing at the moment and I have neighbours who are in far worse position than me and my family," he said.
The National Hurricane Center said at 5 am EDT on Monday that on its current track.
"The core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Grand Bahama Island through much of today and tonight. The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast tonight through Wednesday evening," the Center said.
"This is a life-threatening situation ... residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye. Residents in the Abacos should continue to stay in their shelter until conditions subside later today."
Wind gusts over 321 km/h were being recorded, along with a storm surge seven metres above normal tide levels with higher destructive waves.
"These hazards will cause extreme destruction in the affected areas and will continue for several hours," the hurricane centre said.
Evacuations Ordered In Several US States
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered the evacuation of his state's entire coast. The order, which covers about 830,000 people, was to take effect at noon on Monday, at which point state troopers were to make all lanes on major coastal highways one-way heading inland.
Georgia's Governor, Brian Kemp, ordered evacuations for that state's Atlantic coast, also starting at midday Monday.
Authorities in Florida ordered evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas.
READ MORE: Hurricane Dorian Bearing Down On Florida
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned his state that it could see heavy rain, winds and floods later in the week.
Hundreds Of Flights Cancelled
According to The Associated Press, more than 600 US flights have been cancelled for Monday as the nation prepares for Hurricane Dorian. Nearly half of those flights concerned routes either arriving or departing from Florida airports.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport announced on Sunday that it would be closing at noon on Monday "until further notice".
Cancellations also impacted North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and other states. Approximately 336 flights were cancelled for Sunday alone.
Hurricane Watch Area Extended
The National Hurricane Center extended its warnings to additional parts of Florida.
According to the 11 pm ET Sunday advisory: "A Hurricane Watch has been extended northward from the Flagler/Volusia County Line to the Mouth of the St. Mary's River. A Storm Surge Watch has also been extended northward from the Flagler/Volusia County Line to the Mouth of the St. Mary's River."