'Catastrophic' Hurricane Dorian Stalls Over Bahamas
Hurricane Dorian battered Grand Bahama Island on Monday as the monster storm virtually stalled, toppling and damaging thousands of homes and sending a "life-threatening storm surge" barreling across low-lying coastal lands.
Forecasters called the storm "catastrophic" and "devastating." They predicted Dorian would continue to pound the island throughout much of the day with drenching rains, as much as 60 centimeters, and sustained winds measured at 270 kilometers an hour.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said earlier the storm was only moving west at 2 kilometers an hour, with its center currently about 200 kilometers east of the U.S. mainland in the state of Florida.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said an initial assessment by authorities and its officials showed extensive damage on Grand Bahama and Great Abaco islands, with as many as 13,000 houses that may have been badly damaged or destroyed. Storm surges reached seven meters above normal tide levels.
The international bank UBS estimated that the storm could cause $25 billion in damage.
There were no immediate estimates of casualties in the Bahamas, although news reports said a 7-year-old boy had drowned as a result of the storm.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis broke down in tears at a news conference Sunday, calling it "the worst day of my life." He said many Bahamians had not heeded warnings to evacuate, refusing to leave their homes.
"I can only say to them that I hope this is not the last time they will hear my voice," he said.
In the United States authorities ordered more than a million evacuated from coastal regions in Florida and further north in the states of Georgia and South Carolina. Nearly 1,000 flights were canceled in Florida as the storm edged closer.
alm Beach County, Florida, home to President Donald Trump's Atlantic oceanfront resort, was among the jurisdictions ordering a partial mandatory evacuation.
"This looks like it could be larger than all of them," Trump said Sunday during a hurricane briefing in Washington at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The agency said Dorian "will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast" by Monday night and stay close to the shoreline through Wednesday night.
"Although gradual weakening is forecast," meteorologists said, "Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days." Forecasters are predicting the storm will eventually turn northeastward, heading up the eastern U.S. shoreline.
In the Bahamas, residents riding out the storm posted images of water rising up the side of their homes. The Bahamas Power and Light utility said there was a total blackout in New Providence, the archipelago's most populous island, even though it was not in the direct path of the hurricane's eye. The company said its office on Great Abaco was flattened.
Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said, "Hurricane Dorian is the strongest storm to ever threaten the state of Florida on the east coast. No matter what path this storm takes, our state will be impacted. We will continue to work around the clock to prepare."
Authorities expect the storm to weaken some and take a turn to the north and northeast in the coming days, but how much it turns and how quickly will determine the extent of Dorian's effects on the U.S. mainland. For now, forecasters have put hurricane warnings in place for about half of Florida's east coast.