When Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Sunday afternoon, it became the most powerful storm to ever hit the Bahamas, with wind gusts reaching up to 220 miles per hour.
The extent of the devastation caused by Dorian is unknown because communications with the Bahamas have been badly impacted, but the storm has already reportedly claimed the life of an 8-year-old boy.
Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco Island at 2 p.m ET Sunday, with sustained wind speeds of up 185mph recorded.
Eyewitness News in the Bahamas spoke to Ingrid McIntosh who said she had learned her eight-year-old grandson had died, likely drowned. She added that her granddaughter was missing. Both children were in the Abaco Islands.
After passing over Great Abaco, the hurricane moved westward and hit Grand Bahama Island later on Sunday. Because of widespread power and internet outages, very little information has emerged about the extent of the damage it caused there.
“This is probably the saddest and worst day of my life,” Bahamian prime minister Hubert Minnis said in a televised address Sunday evening after landfall. “We're facing a hurricane that we've never seen in the history of the Bahamas.”
Where and when the storm will hit the east coast of the U.S. is proving difficult to predict at the moment, but authorities in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency. South Carolina’s governor, Henry McMaster, ordered the evacuation of his state’s entire coastline from Monday at noon.
What’s the situation in the Bahamas?
The full extent of the damage in the Bahamas is unknown as communications out of the region have been impacted by the storm.
The video footage that has emerged shows floodwaters reaching halfway up the sides of family homes with parts of the roofs torn off.
One of the few reporters in Great Abaco, ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore, described the scene as “pure hell.”
"I have seen utter devastation here in Marsh Harbour. We are surrounded by water with no way out," Moore told the broadcaster. “Absolute devastation, there really are no words -- it is pure hell here.”
The National Hurricane Center said early on Monday morning that Dorian continues to be a “life-threatening” storm and warned residents who had not evacuated to remain in their shelters as the eye of the storm passes over the islands.
The Center warned of catastrophic storm surges of between 18ft and 23ft.
While the Bahamian authorities did order some evacuations, a number of people didn’t take heed. “I can only say to them, that I hope this is not the last time they will hear my voice and may God be with them,” Missis, who broke down during the press conference, said.
Meteorologists say the storm is moving so slowly (just 1mph) that it will continue to batter the Bahamas throughout Monday and into Tuesday, dropping as much as 30 inches of rain in some locations.
What happens next?
“On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands overnight and through much of Monday," the National Hurricane Center said overnight. “The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night.”
The NHC predicts “a slow westward to west-northwestward motion is forecast during the next day or so, followed by a gradual turn toward the northwest and north.”
While the hurricane is likely to decrease in power slightly before it hits the eastern U.S., it has the potential to cause much greater risk to life and property along the more populated eastern U.S. seaboard, given the relatively small populations of Great Abaco (17,000) and Grand Bahama (52,000).
What has Trump said?
President Trump, who canceled a trip to Poland to oversee the response to the hurricane, tweeted incorrectly that Alabama was one of the states in danger of being hit by Hurricane Dorian.
The National Weather Service office in Birmingham Alabama quickly sought to reassure residents of the state saying it would “NOT” see any effects from Dorian.
However, Trump repeated the claim during a press briefing later in the day.
“And, I will say, the states — and it may get a little piece of a great place: It’s called Alabama,” said Trump. “And Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that, it could be. This just came up, unfortunately. It’s the size of – the storm that we’re talking about. So, for Alabama, just please be careful also.”
During that press briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) headquarters in Washington, Trump also repeated a claim he has made on four previous occasions, that he has never heard of a Category 5 hurricane.
“I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a category 5,” said Trump. “I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some category 4s; you don’t even see them that much. But a category 5 is something that I don’t know that I’ve even heard the term other than I know it’s there. That’s the ultimate. And that’s what we have, unfortunately.”
Dorian is the fourth Category 5 hurricane to threaten the United States since Trump became president: just eight months into his presidency, in September 2017, Hurricane Irma battered the eastern seaboard, impacting nine states. In the same month, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, and the U.S. territory is still struggling to recover as a result of a mismanaged recovery effort.
Cover: Strong winds move the palms of the palm trees at the first moment of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday Sept. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)