The strongest storm to ever hit the Bahamas has pulverized houses, leaving countless residents homeless and threatening more destruction in the US.
“Tragic flooding, we are stranded!” John Forbes tweeted Monday from Grand Bahama.
Hurricane Dorian wiped out power to Nassau and the rest of New Providence, the country’s most populous island, Bahamas Power and Light said.
“There’s damages everywhere around my area,” Marsh Habour resident Vernal Cooper said. “Cars and houses destroyed. This is what’s left of Marsh Harbour.”
Dorian made landfall Sunday night on Grand Bahama Island, whipping winds of 180 mph as a Category 5 hurricane.
Those winds weakened to 155 mph late Monday morning, making Dorian an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said.
But the biggest problem is that Dorian is moving only 1 mph across the Bahamas — slower than walking pace. That means it will pound the same decimated places over and over again.
“It’s just an absolutely devastating, life-threatening situation,” said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
And in the southeastern US, millions of Americans are under mandatory evacuation orders as the mammoth storm inches closer.
Where Dorian is going
Late Monday morning, Dorian was hurling 155-mph winds about 30 miles east-northeast of Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island.
Dorian will keep lashing Grand Bahama Island though Monday night, the hurricane center said.
“The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late tonight through Wednesday evening and then move dangerously close to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts on Wednesday night and Thursday,” the National Hurricane Center said.
“The very dangerous core of Dorian is expected to stay roughly 50 miles off the Florida coast, which will bring hurricane force winds, surge and heavy rain,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
The first victim was an 8-year-old boy
In the Abaco Islands, “the devastation is unprecedented,” Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.
“We have reports of casualties. We have reports of bodies being seen. We cannot confirm those reports until we go out and see for ourselves,” Bahamian Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said.
An 8-year-old boy from the Abaco Islands apparently drowned in rising waters, his grandmother told Eyewitness News in the Bahamas.
The grandmother, Ingrid McIntosh, said her 31-year-old daughter found the body of the boy. McIntosh said her granddaughter is also missing.
“I just saw my grandson about two days ago,” McIntosh said. “He told me he loved me. He was going back to Abaco, he turned around and said, ‘Grandma, I love you.'”
CNN has reached out to authorities, who have not yet confirmed reports of the boy’s death.
Part of the reason it’s so difficult to grasp the number of casualties is because conditions are still dire.
“It’s not safe to go outdoors,” Henfield said. “Power lines are down. Lamp posts are down. Trees are across the street. It is very dangerous to be outdoors.”
And since Dorian is barely moving, the storm could dump a total of 24 to 30 inches of rain on northwestern parts of the Bahamas, the hurricane center said.
On top of flooding from rain, “catastrophic storm surge flooding” was likely, forecasters said.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” the hurricane center said.
“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.”
How Dorian could pummel the US
The strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year is on track to threaten the US Southeast. But it’s still unclear if or where Dorian will make landfall.
Landfall happens when the center of the hurricane reaches land. Forecast models now show Dorian skirting along Florida’s coast Tuesday and then next to Georgia late Tuesday and Wednesday.
But just because the center of the storm might not hit land doesn’t mean it won’t cause damage. Hurricane-force winds topping 74 mph extend 45 miles out from the storm’s center.
The hurricane center said “life-threatening storm surges and dangerous hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the Florida east coast through mid-week.”
The governors of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina ordered mandatory evacuations for some coastal residents.
At least 13 Florida counties were under evacuation orders Monday morning, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
For those not under mandatory evacuations, the agency urged residents to “plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power & water for several days.”
More than 900 flights have been canceled going in and out of Florida airports, according to data from Flightaware.com
The Orlando Melbourne International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will suspend commercial flights and close terminals at noon Monday.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered mandatory evacuations in six coastal counties east of Interstate 95. The order will be in place through Monday night, the governor said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also ordered the evacuation of coastal South Carolina residents starting at noon on Monday.
The storm could also impact coastal parts of North Carolina later this week.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, Christina Dowe said she bought a new home in November after her home was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Florence.
“We’ve just been trying to get perishables, getting water, getting flashlights. Just trying to get the necessities, things that we need, so we can be better prepared than we were last year,” she said
Dowe said she’s just hoping “everything works out better than it did last year.”
‘My house sounds like the ocean’
Before anyone knows what damage Dorian will inflict on the US, it’ll keep hammering battered parts of the Bahamas.
Vickareio Adderely’s home in Marsh Harbour is filled with water. One of the rooms is now “gone,” and a hole in the roof keeps getting bigger.
“My house sounds like the ocean,” Adderely said. “There are three houses adjacent to mine that also lost their roof.”
In Freeport, CNN’s Patrick Oppman said it was impossible to sleep as the slow-moving hurricane pounded the city.
“Sounds like a jet engine outside right now,” Oppmann tweeted early Monday morning. “Howling, blasting, wailing. The longest night of so many people’s lives in the Bahamas.”