Posted On 02 Sep 2019
“Catastrophic” Category 5 Hurricane Dorian inched across the northern Bahamas early Monday, lashing the archipelago with 200 mph wind gusts and flooding the low-lying islands with a storm surge of up to 23 feet above normal.
Parts of Grand Bahama Island were being “lashed incessantly” by destructive hurricane-force winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said early Monday.
When the hurricane made landfall on neighboring Great Abaco Island on Sunday at 2 p.m., Dorian’s maximum sustained winds were 185 mph — an Atlantic hurricane record matched only by a storm that struck the Florida Keys in 1935.
Although top sustained wind speeds have decreased to 165 mph early Monday, the hurricane center still called it “a life-threatening situation.”
Download the NBC News app for updates on Hurricane Dorian
“Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over,” it warned early Monday.
The National Hurricane Center said wind gusts of up to 200 mph and storm surge up to 23 feet above normal tide levels will continue over Grand Bahama Island during most of the day on Monday, “causing extreme destruction on the island.”
There was little information coming from the affected islands.
Most people went to shelters as the storm approached, with tourist hotels shutting down and residents boarded up their homes.
Videos and photos shot by residents of Great Abaco island and obtained by NBC News showed relentless gusts of wind toppling trees and structural damage that included collapsed roofs.
“This is probably the saddest and worst day for me to address the Bahamian people,” said Prime Minister of the Bahamas Hubert Minnis in a tweet after briefing the nation Sunday night. “We are facing a hurricane that we have never seen in The Bahamas. Please pray for us.”
President Donald Trump voiced his support for the Bahamians tweeting Sunday: “Pray for the people in the Bahamas. Being hit like never before, Category 5.”
The National Hurricane Center said Dorian will move “dangerously close” to the Florida east coast Monday night and through Wednesday evening.
The hurricane was 120 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida as of 5 a.m. ET on Monday.
“Only a slight deviation to the left of the official forecast would bring the core of Dorian near or over the Florida east coast,” the center warned. It added that there was also an increasing likelihood of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas later this week.
NBC News meteorologist Don Tsouhnikas said the warnings erred on the side of caution as people needed time to evacuate if necessary.
“If this storm track pans out, the center [of the hurricane] will be 40 to 80 miles off the east coast of Florida as it begins to change its path,” Tsouhnikas said. “That would spare Florida and avoid potentially severe damage.”
Full coverage: Latest stories and video on Hurricane Dorian
But he said a wobble to the left toward Florida’s coast would bring a more significant impact, stronger winds and storm surge.
On Sunday, governors of South Carolina and Georgia ordered at least 1 million people to evacuate their coasts beginning Monday.
Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents Sunday to make sure they are ready for possible impacts expected by the middle of the week.
Associated Press contributed.