Forecasters warned Tuesday night that Hurricane Dorian is now an imminent threat to most of the Southeast coast, from central Florida all the way to Surf City, N.C., creating “a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline.”
The storm was expected to go on full assault of the region Wednesday and into Thursday.
“Water levels could begin to rise well in advance of the arrival of strong winds,” the center warned at 8 p.m., adding that large and destructive waves were likely to accompany the surge. In some places on the coast, seawater could rise to seven feet above normal tidal levels, forecasters warned.
Dorian began lashing the Florida coast with winds Tuesday, leaving catastrophic damage as it slowly crawled toward the U.S. Eastern Seaboard downgraded to a Hurrican 2 storm but still packing winds in excess of 100 MPH.
The storm has killed at least five people in the Bahamas and caused widespread destruction on the islands as it slowly but forcefully churned toward the Southeast United States, where mandatory evacuations were ordered in several areas in advance of one of the Atlantic’s most powerful storms on record.
Forecasters said the hurricane would move “dangerously close” to the Florida coast Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday evening. Georgia and South Carolina coasts are next in its current path, beginning late on Wednesday. By the end of the week, Dorian is expected to be shadowing the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia.
Videos showed floodwaters just below battered rooftops in the Abaco Islands, in the northern Bahamas, and emergency responders said thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. The storm all but stalled over Grand Bahama, where heavy flooding was also forecast.
“This is perhaps the worst hurricane to have ever struck the Bahamas,” Michael Scott, the chairman of the government-owned Grand Lucayan Resort and Casino on Grand Bahama Island, told The New York Times. The resort was was operating as a shelter because many designated shelters were damaged.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis confirmed the five deaths.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina each announced mandatory evacuations for certain coastal areas of their states, to take effect at noon on Monday. Residents in Florida’s most vulnerable areas were ordered to leave, too.
While most forecasts show Dorian shifting northward before hitting the mainland, forecasters warned Monday that landfall on the Florida coast was still a possibility.
Tropical storm-force winds were expected in south Florida and could reach hurricane-force Tuesday depending how close to the coast Dorian tracks.
Scenes from the Abaco Islands provided graphic destruction and showed the power of the hurricane, which Monday was packing 185 MPH winds.
The battered island of Grand Bahama was set to endure another day of dire conditions on Tuesday, with wind gusts of up to 150 m.p.h., storm surges as much as 15 feet above normal tide levels and devastating flooding from up to 30 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.
Residents of the Abaco Islands, who endured hours of the raging storm on Sunday, struggled to take stock of the damage, The New York Times reported..
Images and video from the Abaco Islands showed floodwaters swirling just below battered rooftops, submerged cars and floating debris from damaged houses.The first hurricane warning for Florida was issued Sunday and evacuations were underway in some areas of the state.
Michael Reimer, a driver/engineer for the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue and volunteer for the Head-Knowles Emergency Management Fund, said the nonprofit group plans to fly in a plane loaded with relief supplies for the islanders as soon as the airport at Marsh Harbor in the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas reopens. “Abaco is in real trouble,” he said. “People really need help.”
As Floridians fill up their gas tanks and purchase supplies in preparation for Hurricane Dorian’s arrival, unscrupulous vendors are pushing up prices in the hopes of profiting from residents’ sense of urgency.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said her office has seen an increase in complaints related to price gouging, with about 1,400 reports so far. She said the majority of complaints are associated with water and gas prices, with some gas prices going up $2 per gallon overnight as service stations in some areas run out of fuel.
Airbnb has launched its Open Homes Program to help displaced residents and relief workers deployed to Southeast states affected by Hurricane Dorian. The program recruits hosts who are willing and able to provide free housing to displaced residents, and disaster relief workers in the activation area. States included in the program are Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Alabama through Sept. 16.
“North Carolinians should prepare, and listen to local leaders for updates on severe weather. Please take the time now to prepare for possible effects of #Dorian,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper wrote in a Twitter message.
Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina told his state’s residents to be on guard for what’s to come and to start getting ready now.
“Given the strength and unpredictability of the storm, we must prepare for every possible scenario,” McMaster said. “State assets are being mobilized now and Team South Carolina is working around the clock to be ready, if necessary. We encourage all South Carolinians who may be impacted by Hurricane Dorian to be vigilant and prepare now. There is no reason for delay.”
Precise forecast for hurricanes are notoriously difficult because the storms commonly wobble or otherwise shift course as they approach landfall.
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