Hurricane Dorian devastated the island of Great Abaco on Sunday afternoon as it slammed into the northwestern Bahamas with wind gusts up to 220 mph, making it a ‘catastrophic’ Category 5 storm.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) previously issued a hurricane warning for the region, where Dorian brought “heavy rainfall,” “hurricane-force winds,” and “life-threatening storm surge.” Early reports emerging from the island show extreme flooding, and the NHC warned residents that the “life-threatening situation” warranted staying indoors, even as the eye of the hurricane passed over.
Forecasts suggest Dorian will now approach Florida’s east coast on Tuesday. The storm’s path has proved difficult to predict, but Sunday’s forecast no longer shows it making landfall in Florida. Rather, it shows Dorian’s path shifting north, drawing it closer to the Georgia and the Carolinas’ coasts, where “the risk of strong winds and life-threatening storm surge” is increasing for the middle of the week.
Previous projections have shown Dorian making landfall near Fort Pierce, Florida. Meteorologists say the trajectory could still change, though. The Florida coast is in the “cone of uncertainty,” meaning just a small shift could bring the storm even closer.
In Great Abaco, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) observed a storm surge of 18 to 23 feet over normal tide levels in some areas. Video taken of the flooding shows the water seemingly reaching above the first floor of some residential structures, and the NHC warned that the devastation could continue to worsen for several hours.
In the central Bahamas, along with the Atlantic US coast from Florida to Georgia, 2 to 4 inches of rain are expected, with up to 6 inches in some areas. The Carolinas are forecasted to receive more rain, with 5 to 10 inches expected, and up to 15 inches in some areas. This rain could “cause life-threatening flash floods,” the NHC said.
Dorian moved over Great Abaco on Sunday, and continues to pass, with forecasts of venturing near or over the Grand Bahama Island late Sunday and into Monday. The hurricane is forecasted to move toward Florida Monday night and late into Tuesday. Fluctuations in Dorian’s Category are expected, but the NHC expects it to remain a “powerful” hurricane throughout its trajectory toward the Florida, George, and Carolinas’ coasts.
Hurricane Dorian’s landfall is difficult to predict
Florida should expect tropical-storm-force winds starting late Sunday, the NHC said. Palm Beach County in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations for residential structures in Zones A and B on Sunday morning.
“That’s when we really need to wrap things when it comes to our preparedness,” the NHC director, Ken Graham, said in a Facebook Live video on Friday. “With tropical-storm-force winds, it’s dangerous to drive. It’s dangerous to hold some plywood. It’s dangerous to be on a ladder or your roof.”
Georgia and South Carolina could also experience these winds by Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
Determining where the hurricane could hit the coast has been made difficult by a cocktail of weather conditions in the Caribbean. Those other systems could pull the storm in a range of directions — NHC forecasters said on Thursday that there were “so many complex variables in play” that “the models have been having a difficult time nailing down the path of the hurricane.”
Even if the storm does turn north before reaching the coast, Graham said, Florida residents should still expect strong winds throughout the state. And the NHC warned on Friday evening that “life-threatening storm surge and devastating hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the Florida east coast by early next week.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency across Florida.
“Due to #Dorian’s uncertain path, I am expanding the state of emergency to include all 67 counties throughout Florida,” he tweeted on Thursday. “All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts.”
South Carolina Gov. Henry Mc Master also declared a state of emergency on Saturday, after Dorian’s updated trajectory showed it coming closer than previously expected to the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. With a state of emergency in place, states are open to federal aid, and state agency workers can mobilize to prepare for the storm, along with state National Guards.
Florida residents have been stockpiling supplies in anticipation of the storm’s arrival. Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, told the AP that she found no water in a supermarket in Miami and didn’t know where to go to escape the worst of Dorian’s effects.
“I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened,” she said. “What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?”
The Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, just east of Orlando, is also preparing for Dorian’s arrival. Teams at the space center and the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — both of which could fall in Dorian’s path — were securing multimillion-dollar launch equipment before the hurricane makes landfall, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Dorian could be part of an above-average hurricane season
Puerto Rico escaped the worst of Dorian’s wrath: The only confirmed death connected to the hurricane there so far was an 80-year-old man who fell from a ladder while preparing his home, the police told NBC News.
Dorian is the fourth named storm of this Atlantic hurricane season.
In early August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revised its forecast for the hurricane season: It now says there’s a 45% chance of above-average activity, with five to nine hurricanes, two to four of which could be major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above, with winds of at least 110 mph).
On average, the Atlantic sees six hurricanes during a season, with three developing into major hurricanes. Hurricane season peaks in August through October and ends on November 30.
However, these categories don’t necessarily indicate the full destructive power of a storm, since they’re based solely on wind speed. In Dorian’s case, the storm is traveling slowly, meanings its effects are likely to be prolonged.
“The slower you go, that means more rain,” Graham said. “That means more time that you’re going to have those winds.”
Slower, wetter storms are becoming more common as the planet warms. Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study in the journal Nature found.
Credits: Business Insider