UPDATES: Dorian focuses fury, barely budges over Bahamas

'A historic tragedy': At least 5 people dead as Dorian continues to pummel Bahamas

MIAMI — Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with so much wind and water that authorities urged people to find floatation devices and grab hammers to break out of their attics if necessary.

The fearsome Category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passed.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at least five people have died in the Abaco Islands as Hurricane Dorian continued to pound the region.

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"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy," Minnis said.

11 p.m.

Dorian was on the verge of going down to a Category 3 still. Regardless, it is still an enormous storm and it will have a major impact on the Carolinas.

  • 100 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Winds up to 130 mph

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8 p.m.

The ferocious storm's center was about 25 miles northeast of Freeport Grand Bahama Island. It has barely budged from that position all day.

But its wind speeds lessened slightly to 140 mph. That was down from 155 mph earlier in the day.

On Sunday, Dorian blasted the Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

The National Hurricane center said Dorian is expected to move "dangerously close" to the Florida east coast late Monday through Wednesday evening and then move north to coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday night and Thursday.

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7:25 p.m.

Hurricane Dorian has been inching eastward as it continues to maul the Bahamas.

At 7 p.m. EDT Monday, the ferocious storm's center was about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Freeport Grand Bahama Island. That's about 5 miles (8 kilometers) farther east than it was at 4 p.m.

But its wind speeds remained at 145 mph (230 kph), where they had been for much of the afternoon. That was down from 155 mph (250 kph) earlier in the day.

On Sunday, Dorian blasted the Bahamas with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (297 kph).

The National Hurricane center said Dorian is expected to move "dangerously close" to the Florida east coast late Monday through Wednesday evening and then move north to coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Minnis said Monday that there are also people in nearby Great Bahama island who are in serious distress. He said rescue crews will respond to calls for help as soon as weather conditions allow.

He said many homes and buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed.

Dorian was downgraded from a record-setting Category 5 to Category 4 storm by 11 a.m. Monday, it's top sustained winds falling to 145 mph -- down from 155 mph earlier in the day, and its westward movement slowed almost to a standstill. The system crawled along Grand Bahama Island at just 1 mph.

Officials said by 5 p.m. Monday, Hurricane Dorian had come to a complete stop over the Bahamas -- 0 mph.

The storm was expected to continue inflicting devastation on Grand Bahama Island throughout Monday.

The center said the storm will move "dangerously close" to the Florida East Coast late Monday through Wednesday evening then north to coastal Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Officials said a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Nassau, Bahamas was forced to turn back because of high crosswind speeds.

Delta says Flight 337, which had 42 customers on board, took off just before 10 a.m. EDT Monday because forecasts showed crosswinds within limits and Nassau's airport was open. But wind speeds increased while the flight was en route, so it returned to Atlanta.

"They are ready to get into those areas as soon as the weather subsides," he said.

Officials said they received a "tremendous" number of calls from people in flooded homes. A radio station received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a 5-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. Other reports involved a group of eight children and five adults stranded on a highway and two storm shelters that flooded.

Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and said rescue crews could not help anyone at the moment because of the storm's maximum winds of 150 mph.

"We simply cannot get to you," Butler said.

On Sunday, Dorian churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and unleashed heavy flooding as people called radio stations and sent desperate messages on social media to find loved ones.

"It's devastating," Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, said. "There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported."

News outlets in the Bahamas were reporting a 7-year-old boy had died and that his sister is missing.

More Hurricane Dorian content:

"We received catastrophic damage here in Abaco," Parliament member Darren Henfield told reporters. He said officials did not have information yet on what happened in nearby cays. "We are in search and recovery mode. ... Continue to pray for us."

Information began emerging from other affected islands, with Bahamas Power and Light spokesman Quincy Parker telling ZNS radio station that there was a total blackout in New Providence, the archipelago's most populous island. He also said the company's office in Abaco island was flattened by the storm.

"The reports out of Abaco as everyone knows," Parker said as he paused for a deep sigh, "were not good."

Meanwhile, Don Cornish, island administrator for Grand Bahama Island, told The Associated Press that officials received many calls from people in distress about flooded homes.

Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. But many people were expected to be left homeless.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Dorian made landfall in Elbow Cay, Bahamas around 12:40 p.m. EDT Sunday with monstrous winds of 185 mphs and wind gusts clocking over 220 mph. The storm surge was measured at between 18 and 23 feet.

Dorian then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour at 2 p.m.

Dorian has tied the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall. That equaled the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190 mph winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.

Forecasters said Dorian was most likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early Tuesday and curving to the northeast parallel to the U.S. Southeast seaboard. Still, the potent storm was expected to stay close to shore and hammer the coast with dangerous winds and heavy surf, while authorities cautioned that it could still make landfall.

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"Catastrophic conditions" were reported in Abaco, with a storm surge of 18 to 23 feet.

Video that Jibrilu and government spokesman Kevin Harris said was sent by Abaco residents showed homes missing parts of roofs, electric lines on the ground and smashed and overturned cars. One showed floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town at nearly the height of a car roof.

In some parts of Abaco, "you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. According to the Nassau Guardian, he called it "probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people."

Bahamas radio station ZNS Bahamas reported that a mother and child on Grand Bahama had called to say they were sheltering in a closet and seeking help from police.

Silbert Mills, owner of the Bahamas Christian Network, said trees and power lines were torn down in Abaco.

"The winds are howling like we've never, ever experienced before," said Mills, who was riding out the hurricane with his family in the concrete home he built 41 years ago on central Abaco.

Jack Pittard, a 76-year-old American who has visited the Bahamas for 40 years, also decided to stay put on Abaco for Dorian, which he said was his first hurricane. A short video from Pittard about 2:30 p.m. Sunday showed the wind shaking his home and ripping off the siding.

The Bahamas archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer neighborhoods, with wooden homes in low-lying areas.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Dorian is forecast to be 40 to 50 miles off Florida, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles to the west.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Florida's East Coast from Deerfield Beach north to the Georgia state line. The same area was put under a storm surge watch. Lake Okeechobee was under a tropical storm watch.

Mandatory evacuation orders for low-lying and flood-prone areas and mobile homes were in effect starting either Sunday or Monday from Palm Beach County north to at least the Daytona Beach area, and some counties to the north issued voluntary evacuation notices. Weekend traffic was light in Florida despite those orders, unlike during the chaotic run-up to Hurricane Irma in 2017 when the unusually broad storm menaced the entire state.

Ken Graham, director of the hurricane center, urged people not to bet on safety just because the forecast track had the storm a bit offshore. With every new forecast, "we keep nudging (Dorian's track) a little bit to the left" - that is, is closer to the Florida coast, Graham said.

President Donald Trump already declared a state of emergency and was briefed about what he called a "monstrous" storm.

"We don't know where it's going to hit but we have an idea, probably a little bit different than the original course," Trump said. "But it can change its course again and it can go back more toward Florida."

Severe Weather Center 9 tracks Dorian's impact on the Carolinas

Meteorologist Jaclyn Shearer said Dorian is expected to maintain Category 5 strength and stay in the Bahamas until Monday evening. It will most likely begin pulling away from the Bahamas early Tuesday and curving to the northeast parallel to the U.S. Southeast seaboard

Still, the potent storm was expected to stay close to shore and hammer the coast with dangerous winds and heavy surf, while authorities cautioned that it could still make landfall. This means the area will be dealing with hurricane winds, life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.

Shearer said model guidance is tracking the storm slightly closer to the North Carolina coast and that the exact track, including the potential for landfall, will be pretty unclear until late Tuesday.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order Sunday for the mandatory evacuation of his state's entire coast. The order, which covers about 830,000 people, was to take effect at noon Monday, at which point state troopers were to make all lanes on major coastal highways one-way heading inland.

"We can't make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive," McMaster said.

Many will be evacuating for the fourth time in four years.

State of Emergency Declarations:

McMaster has also declared a state of emergency in South Carolina after the latest forecast for Hurricane Dorian increased the threat to the state.

The emergency declaration makes it easier to get federal help and let state agencies coordinate possible evacuations or other preparations.

The city of Charleston declared a state of emergency. The city's mayor told WCIV.

“While the exact path of Hurricane Dorian is still subject to change, this is a large, powerful storm, and we need to prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best."

President Donald Trump has approved emergency declarations for Georgia and South Carolina due to Hurricane Dorian.

Trump approved the declarations on Sunday. The White House announced them Monday.

The declarations authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

Shortly after, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina saying "North Carolinians should prepare and listen to local leaders for updates on severe weather."

In a briefing Sunday, Cooper said he is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. North Carolinians are still feeling the impacts of Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Matthew.

He said crews are working to prepare shelters in case of evacuations and first responders are ready to respond. Cooper added even if the storm doesn't hit the state or doesn't hit hard, he said the state is being responsible with how to handle it and is preparing for anything.

Officials said they do expect far less rain or flooding from Hurricane Dorian than the state experienced during Florence last year.

State Emergency Management Meteorologist Katie Webster said Monday that Dorian is expected to pick up its speed as it churns north along the East Coast. Webster says Dorian could drop 5 to 10 inches of rain on North Carolina, with points along the coast getting a foot or more. That's about half the maximum rainfall totals during Florence last September.

Florence was blamed for 45 storm-related deaths in North Carolina and the National Hurricane Center lists it as causing $22 billion in damage.

Gov. Roy Cooper said he's activated 300 members of the National Guard to help with preparations and storm response.

Dare County emergency officials also announced mandatory evacuation orders for visitors starting at 12 p.m. Tuesday and for residents starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

This includes the towns of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Manteo and all "unincorporated areas" including Hatteras Island, Roanoke Island and the Dare mainland.

Severe Weather Center 9 meteorologists said the most likely track for Dorian looks eerily similar to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but they are two very different storms. Matthew reached Category 5 status, and hugged the coast slightly closer than what we’re expecting Dorian to do.

(Track of Hurricane Matthew in 2016)

That being said, storms that hug the coast can be very strong and dangerous because they never lose their fuel source -- warm ocean water.

That means coastal areas especially should be concerned about extensive flooding and strong winds for much of next week, with outer rain bands potentially reaching as far inland as the Charlotte metro area.

Will Florida dodge a direct hit?

The faint hope of dodging Dorian's fury in Florida came Friday, even as the storm ratcheted up from a menacing Category 3 hurricane to an even more dangerous Category 4. This, however, raised fears Dorian could become the most powerful hurricane to hit Florida's east coast in nearly 30 years.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said a hurricane warning has been issued for a stretch of Florida's east coast as powerful Hurricane Dorian approaches.

The Miami-based center said the hurricane warning covers an area from Jupiter Inlet to the Volusia/Brevard County line in Florida. It said a hurricane watch has also been used from Voluisa/Brevard Countyline to the Flagler-Volusia county line.

The first hurricane warning and watch in Florida comes as Hurricane Dorian is battering parts of the Bahamas with top sustained winds of 185 mph.

National Hurricane Center projections showed Dorian hitting roughly near Fort Pierce, some 70 miles north of Mar-a-Lago, then running along the coastline as it moved north. But forecasters cautioned that the storm's track remains still highly uncertain and even a small deviation could put Dorian offshore - or well inland.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is warning residents along the state's Atlantic coast that "we're not out of the woods yet."

He said some forecast models still bring powerful Hurricane Dorian close to or even onto the Florida peninsula along with "life-threatening storm surge and hurricane force winds."

Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts. He told reporters that "Mar-a-Lago can handle itself" and that he is more worried about Florida.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has also ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state's Atlantic coast starting at midday Monday.

Kemp tweeted late Sunday that his executive order covers all those located east of the Interstate 95 corridor on Georgia's Atlantic seaboard. It begins at noon EDT Monday as powerful Hurricane Dorian creeps ever closer to the U.S. Southeast.

Also, the country's two largest home improvement stores say they are gearing up for the storm and getting extra supplies to locations that could be impacted.

Lowe's says it has shipped 1,500 truckloads of generators, flashlights and other supplies to stores in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The company says it has more than 200 stores in those areas.

Home Depot also is shipping additional supplies to more than 150 stores in Florida and Georgia, and that number will likely be higher as the storm tracks north, the company said.

More than 600 Labor Day flights in the U.S. have been canceled as of Sunday afternoon, many of them in Florida as Hurricane Dorian barrels toward the state's coast.

The flight-tracking site FlightAware 610 cancellations for Monday. Nearly 300 of them are flying into or out of Florida airports. There are also cancellations in North Carolina, Atlanta, Maryland and elsewhere. In comparison, 336 flights had been canceled for Sunday.

Orlando International Airport, which so far is expected to see 119 cancellations, says it is monitoring the hurricane but remains open.

As Dorian closed in, Labor Day weekend plans were upended. Major airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without fees. The big cruise lines began rerouting their ships. Disney World and Orlando's other resorts found themselves in the storm's projected path.

Still, with Dorian days away and its track uncertain, Disney and other major resorts held off announcing any closings, and Florida authorities ordered no immediate mass evacuations.

"Sometimes if you evacuate too soon, you may evacuate into the path of the storm if it changes," DeSantis said.

Brevard County is now calling for evacuations to begin Monday morning, instead of Sunday. County officials say families in mobile homes or flood-prone areas and those with special needs or on barrier islands including areas to the south of Kennedy Space Center need to seek shelter elsewhere.

Martin County, north of Palm Beach, also announced it would evacuate certain areas as Dorian nears the coast. Indian River County officials said they will recommend residents of its barrier island voluntarily evacuate once hurricane warnings are issued.

Homeowners and businesses rushed to cover their windows with plywood. Supermarkets ran out of bottled water, and long lines formed at gas stations, with some fuel shortages reported.

At a Publix supermarket in Cocoa Beach, Ed Ciecirski of the customer service department said the pharmacy was extra busy with people rushing to fill prescriptions. The grocery was rationing bottled water and had run out of dry ice.

"It's hairy," he said.

Cumberland Island National Seashore and the Fort Frederica National Monument along Georgia's seacoast have closed because of the threat posed by Hurricane Dorian.

Park officials said those areas will remain closed until after the storm has passed and will reopen once damage assessments have been made and the parks are deemed safe for visitors.

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