TITUSVILLE, Florida—Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamian islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama early on Monday, Sept. 2, peeling off roofs, toppling cars and snapping power lines as rising floodwater threatened to engulf houses.
The second-strongest Atlantic storm on record was forecast to pound the archipelago through the day, then move toward the east U.S. coast—where authorities ordered more than a million people evacuated in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.
The slow-moving, category five storm left the Bahamian islands covered with twisted metal and splintered wood.
The death of an 8-year-old boy is being reported by Bahamas news outlets Eyewitness News and Bahamas Press.
Winds gusting up to 200 mph destroyed or damaged more than 13,000 homes, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.
Residents posted images online of water rising up the side of their houses as the National Hurricane Center warned of a possible storm surge that could push destructive waves higher than many roofs in the islands.
More footage from the Abaco islands.
Unimaginable storm surge has essentially plunged the entire island under water. pic.twitter.com/LAO0jYr0Nv
— ???????????? ???????????????????? ???????????????? (@IntelCrab) September 1, 2019
As of 5 a.m., Dorian was stalled atop the Grand Bahama Island barely drifting westward at 1 mph.
The hurricane was about 125 miles from the Florida coast, parts of which were being evacuated, as it crawled westward.
Palm Beach County, the third most-populated county and home to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, was among those with partial mandatory evacuations. Other counties announced voluntary evacuations.
“This looks like it could be larger than all of them,” Trump said during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Farther north, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of eight coastal counties effective at noon on Monday.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ordered evacuations in all or parts of six coastal counties also effective at noon on Monday.
Starting noon tomorrow, individuals east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties must evacuate due to Hurricane #Dorian. @GeorgiaEMA and @GADeptofTrans will start westerly contraflow on I-16 at 8 AM on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Stay vigilant and be safe. pic.twitter.com/njw2ffCoLT
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) September 2, 2019
Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, the NHC said.
“The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night,” the NHC said.
Dorian is the strongest hurricane on record to hit the northwestern Bahamas as a life-threatening Category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.
It was tied with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, based on maximum sustained winds. Allen in 1980 was the most powerful, with 190 mph winds, the NHC said.
Julia Eaddy, 70, in Titusville, Florida, said she and her husband had ridden out several hurricanes before and were not fazed by the forecast. “I think it will be more of the same,” she said.
Several gasoline stations around Titusville were closed. Many grocery stores were open but boarded up. Inside, shelves emptied out fast.
Dorian is expected to remain a hurricane for the next five days and move northwest along or near the U.S. east coast, forecasters said.
Will It Make Landfall in the US?
The terrifying storm may be making its way toward the East Coast, but it’s still unclear if Dorian will make landfall and where on the mainland U.S. The hurricane’s forecasted track shifted east Friday, making a Florida landfall less likely, but not impossible.
Models now show the storm skirting along Florida’s coast Tuesday and then next to Georgia late Tuesday and into Wednesday. But just because the center of the storm may not hit land doesn’t mean there won’t be damage. Early Monday, hurricane-force winds from the storm extended outward up to 45 miles.
“Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area in Florida by late tonight or Tuesday,” the hurricane center said. “Hurricane conditions are possible in the hurricane watch area on Wednesday.”
It also said that “life-threatening storm surges and dangerous hurricane-force winds are expected along portions of the Florida east coast through mid-week.”
Heavy rains and life-threatening floods are expected in parts of the southeast and lower mid-Atlantic U.S. later this week. The storm will dump up to 6 inches of rain in Florida through Georgia.
A coastal flood advisory was issued early Monday for South Carolina and Georgia by the National Weather Service, which warned of a high rip current. And the hurricane center warned of an “increasing likelihood” of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina later this week.
Hurricane Watches Expanded Northward Along the East Coast to the Florida/Georgia Border. Here are the 11 PM EDT 09/01 Key Messages for #Dorian. For more info see https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB pic.twitter.com/CYtMosB5et
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 2, 2019
“The strongest damage is likely to be along the coastlines with beach erosion, flooding from both heavy rain and storm surge and there will be areas that are likely to experience disastrous storm surge which could lead to widespread damage to buildings along the coast,” Shackelford said.
By Gabriella Borter
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.