Hurricane Dorian Updates: Storm Strengthens to Category 5

Hurricane Dorian Updates: Storm Strengthens to Category 5

11 mins read

As Hurricane Dorian drew near to the Abaco Islands in the northwestern Bahamas early Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center said that the maximum sustained winds around the eye of the storm had reached 175- miles an hour, making it a “catastrophic” storm with “devastating winds.”

It is moving westward fairly slowly — 8 miles an hour — and would soon be moving over Great Abaco, and then continue near or over Grand Bahama later Sunday or early Monday, forecasters said. Storm surge as much of 15 to 20 feet was possible, enough to swamp many low-lying areas of the islands, and that as much as 25 inches of rain could fall before the storm passes.

Hurricane Dorian aimed its fury at the northern reaches of the Bahamas archipelago on Sunday, sending residents scrambling to find shelter as they braced for rising waters and torrential rains.

As the storm moved toward the Abaco Islands, wind gusts of more than 200 miles an hour were recorded, the National Hurricane Center said. It warned that “extreme winds and storm surge will continue for several hours.”

Prime Minister Hubert Innis said Saturday that 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes would be affected by the storm.

The Bahamas prides itself in withstanding powerful storms, but this hurricane brings greater dangers than most. Meteorologists warned of a storm surge that would raise water levels as much as 15 feet to 20 feet above normal, as well as the possibility of more than two feet of rainfall in some areas. Much of the island nation is low-lying, and some areas could be completely flooded.

“We will pray and hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” Michael Pintard, the Bahamian minister of agriculture, said in a text message on Saturday evening.

Residents hunkered down in schools, churches and other emergency shelters, but there was concern that some would try to brave the storm in their homes. “Some people are saying that they’re not going to go because they have nowhere to go,” Frankie Fleuridor, an activist who works with Haitians living on Great Abaco, said on Saturday.

“It’s tough for people in the shantytowns,” he said, because their plywood houses are not built to withstand hurricane-force winds and are prone to flooding. Mr. Fleuridor said that he had rented hotel rooms for the most vulnerable people, but could not afford to do more. “I’m maxed out,” he said. — Elisabeth Malkin

Forecasters expect the storm to creep nearer to the coast of Florida through Monday and then swing northward, paralleling the mainland coast. Though it may not make landfall all week if it follows that track, its strong winds and heavy rains, storm surge and punishing surf could still have the potential to do major damage in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center posted a tropical storm watch on Sunday for the Florida coast from Deerfield Beach to Sebastien Inlet, meaning that storm-force winds are expected there within 36 hours. “Heavy rains, capable of producing life-threatening flash floods, are possible,” the center said.

On Sunday, officials in Palm Beach County, Fla., ordered the evacuation of residences in low-lying and coastal areas, including the barrier island where Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club and favorite winter destination, is located. The order takes effect at 1 p.m. Eastern time and also includes areas with vulnerable types of residential construction, like mobile home parks.

The eastern half of the county is included in a long stretch of the Florida coast now under a tropical storm warning, indicating that Hurricane Dorian’s storm-force winds are expected within 36 hours.

“If you choose not to evacuate to a shelter, please evacuate miles, not hundreds of miles,” the county said. “With the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Dorian, evacuating north is not recommended.” — Patricia Mazzei

Families arrived in Orlando this weekend carrying Disney-themed suitcases, wearing Mickey Mouse ears and closely monitoring Hurricane Dorian’s path as they plowed ahead with long-planned vacations to Walt Disney World.

The theme park complex is mostly operating normally, though its Blizzard Beach Water Park was closed as a precaution on Sunday.

Cierra and Louis Gosselin, who live in Bermuda, booked their nine-day vacation at Disney World more than seven months ago for their wedding anniversary and were especially excited to visit Galaxy Edge, a new Star Wars-themed section of Disney World that opened on Thursday.

The couple has been keeping a close eye on the latest hurricane models and said they were hopeful Dorian would not have much effect on their visit. But just in case, they rented a car and are ready to evacuate if necessary.

“I think we’re a little less intimidated because we live in Bermuda,” said Ms. Gosselin, an accounting consultant. “We’re more accustomed to the hurricanes, and we know what to do.”

She joked that her biggest fear was that the park’s replica of the Millennium Falcon, the Star Wars spacecraft, would be swept up by the storm.

Daniel and Kristin Russell arrived in Orlando on Saturday from Grand Rapids, Mich., with their four-year-old daughter, who is particularly excited for the “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party” event.

Mr. Russell said the family had considered canceling, but decided to go ahead with the trip when forecasts began yo indicate that the hurricane may not make landfall in Florida.

“We had lots of friends and family that told us it might not be good to go, but we kept watching it, and we don’t think it’s going to be a problem now,” he said.

Some visitors were getting out just in time. Inside the Orlando International Airport, the Magic of Disney store was bustling with people snagging one more souvenir before boarding a plane home. They tried on hats with Minnie Mouse’s signature red and white polka dots and perused Disney-themed oven mitts, stuffed animals and R2-D2 mugs. — Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

With forecasters now expecting the storm to move north up the coast before making landfall, the governors of North and South Carolina have declared states of emergency, adding to those already declared in all of Florida and in 12 counties in Georgia.

“North Carolinians should prepare, and listen to local leaders for on severe weather. Please take the time now to prepare for possible effects of #Dorian,” Gov. Roy Cooper wrote in a Twitter message Saturday night. Several hours earlier, Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina told his state’s residents not to take the storm lightly.

“Given the strength and unpredictability of the storm, we must prepare for every possible scenario,” Mr. McMaster said in a statement. “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.”

The National Hurricane Center said some tracking models suggest that the storm may make landfall near Cape Fear, N.C. on Thursday or Friday. Though its winds are expected to have weakened somewhat, the storm could still be lashing the coastline with winds of up to 80 miles an hour, and could dump as much as 10 inches of rain on coastal areas of North Carolina. — Timothy Williams

  • Anticipating Dorian’s movements has been unusually difficult for forecasters.

  • As a newborn hurricane, Dorian hit the Virgin Islands but largely spared Puerto Rico.

  • What our photographers are seeing as Florida braces for a major hurricane.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting from Orlando, Fla., Patricia Mazzei from Miami, Elisabeth Malkin from Mexico City and Timothy Williams from New York.

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