Hurricane Dorian continued to cause “extreme destruction” to the Bahamas on Monday, with at least five people confirmed dead as a result of the storm.
The National Hurricane Center had no better news for the Bahamas on Tuesday morning, saying “Dorian won’t budge” with the southern eyewall of the storm “firmly planted" over the island of Grand Bahama.
While the storm was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane on Tuesday morning with sustained wind speeds of 125mph, the NHC warned that gusts of up to 155mph and storm surges of up to 18 feet above normal were expected.
Dorian slammed into Great Abaco island Sunday as a Category 5 storm with sustained wind speeds of 185mph, causing widespread devastation and killing at least five people.
“We are in the midst of an historic tragedy,” Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”
Officials have been inundated with distress calls from people whose homes have been flooded or blown away, but as the storm continues to pummel the islands, they said there's little they can do to help those in trouble.
“We simply cannot get to you," Police Chief Samuel Butler told a local radio station Monday.
As many as 13,000 homes may have been destroyed or severely damaged in the Bahamas according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
With the storm moving at just 1mph, meteorologists are struggling to predict where or when it will hit the eastern coast of the U.S.
Dorian could still make landfall on the Florida coast, but evacuations have also been ordered in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas. While the storm has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, with winds of 120mph, officials have been warning Florida residents that Dorian could still cause extensive damage.
What happened on Monday?
“Many homes, businesses and other buildings have been completed or partially destroyed,” Minnis said. “Downtown Grand Bahama is under three feet of water, including the ground floor of its hospital and the prime minister’s office.”
Minnis said the death toll had reached five, but officials say many more people are unaccounted for.
The full extent of the damage caused to the islands won’t be known for several days, until the storm passes and planes can survey remote parts of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Thousands of residents have been trying to contact emergency services, but many have been unable to get through.
Instead, they have been phoning local radio stations, with one saying it received more than 2,000 distress messages. These included reports of a five-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother of six who cut a hole in the roof to escape rising floodwaters.
The police urged people to remain calm and share their GPS coordinates, but reiterated that it could be at least another day before they could send a response.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, a relief group based in Barbados, said it may not be able to visit the islands until Wednesday afternoon.
Where will Dorian go next?
According to the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday morning, Dorian was stationary just north of Grand Bahama Island, having moved just 12 miles on Monday.
The center said the storm is expected to move north-northwest through today and in a northerly direction on Wednesday, followed by a turn to the northeast on Thursday.
“On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Grand Bahama Island today,” the center said. “The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late today through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday.”
How are preparations going on the east coast?
The city of Stuart in Martin County, Florida is already experiencing the impact of Dorian. It has been lashed with heavy downpours and strong, tropical storm-force winds. Some transformers have been blown, causing power outages.
While the storm remains stationary over the Bahamas, a hurricane warning was extended to about 240 miles of the Florida coast on Monday afternoon — from just north of West Palm Beach to the beach adjacent to Jacksonville.
In Martin County, where a mandatory evacuation of the barrier islands has been in place since Sunday, the causeway that connects the islands has been shut, and some hurricane shelters are no longer accepting evacuees.
Officials and residents in states north of Florida are getting increasingly worried about the storm’s predicted path, and on Monday people in Georgia and as well as the Carolinas were ordered to evacuate.
“We know that we cannot make everybody happy, but we believe that we can keep everyone alive,” Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina said at a news conference Monday.
Trump vs. the National Weather Service
Trump on Monday continued to claim that Alabama was at one point in danger of being impacted by Dorian, despite repeated denials by his own weather service.
Having initially claimed in a tweet and subsequently a press conference on Sunday that Alabama could be hit by Dorian, Trump tweeted on Monday night that “under certain original scenarios” Alabama was in danger.
"I suggested yesterday at FEMA that, along with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, even Alabama could possibly come into play, which WAS true. They made a big deal about this ... when in fact, under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some 'hurt.' Always good to be prepared!" Trump wrote.
However this contradicted comments Trump made during Sunday’s press conference, when he said the danger to Alabama “just came up, unfortunately.”
At no point did the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center suggest that hurricane-force winds could reach Alabama and the state was not mentioned in the latest updates from the services on Tuesday morning.
Cover: This GOES-16 satellite image taken Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, at 16:40 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, left, churning over Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian hovered over the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with a fearsome Category 4 assault that forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passes. (NOAA via AP)