John Bacon, USA TODAY
Published 3:17 p.m. ET Sept. 2, 2019 | Updated 3:39 p.m. ET Sept. 2, 2019
Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas with 155 mph winds and heavy rain. The storm downgraded from a Category 5 to Category 4 on Labor Day.
Hurricane Dorian continued its devastating assault on the Bahamas on Monday after making landfall on three islands along the north end of the battered archipelago.
The historic storm hovered over the islands after grinding to a virtual halt, blasting the islands with record winds, rain totals that could exceed two feet and inundating storm surge.
Emergency responders were overwhelmed. The Salvation Army, which has scores of volunteers across the Bahamas, estimated that at least 13,000 homes were destroyed on one group of islands alone.
Capt. Mike Michels with the Salvation Army in Kingston, Jamaica, said the reports coming in were bleak.
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“We are seeing photos, videos of people up to their waist in water in their homes, and the water is rising,” Michels told USA TODAY. “The government is telling people to cut holes in their ceilings so they can’t be trapped if the water rushes in. It’s crazy.”
The prolonged period of hurricane conditions was producing catastrophic damage across Grand Bahama, said the U.S National Hurricane Center.
“On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Grand Bahama Island through much of today and tonight,” the center warned.
Hurricane Dorian made its initial landfall Sunday at Elbow Cay, an 8-mile long reef in the Abaco Islands. Then a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian was driving 185 mph winds, with gusts up to 220 mph – tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall.
The hurricane then made landfall on Great Abaco Island, and again Sunday night along the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island, AccuWeather said.
“Grand Bahama is still feeling the impact,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis tweeted Monday. “Based on reports out of Abaco, the devastation is unprecedented. … Our focus right now is rescue, recovery and prayer.”
Grand Bahama is still feeling the impact of the Category 5 #HuricaneDorian. Based on reports out of Abaco, the devastation is unprecedented. Winds have decreased to 165MPH but Dorian remains an extremely dangerous storm. Our focus right now is rescue, recovery and prayer.
— Dr Hubert Minnis (@minnis_dr) September 2, 2019
Michels said the airport there is under five feet of water. It will take a week for the water to subside, then at least another week for cleanup so the airport can reopen, he said. That’s a problem for groups trying to get relief supplies to the island.
Video posted on social media out of Freeport, on Grand Bahama, showed water climbing toward roofs, up the stairs of homes, and to the tops of palm trees. Resident Dave Mackey recorded video showing water flowing like a river past his home.
“Our house is 15 feet up, and right now where that water is is about 8 feet,” Mackey told the Associated Press. “We come out of it with our lives, we’re happy.”
Broad power and communications outages made assessment of the damage difficult. The Bahamas Press reported that entire communities on Abacos were underwater, and that many locals were missing and feared dead.
The Press called Abacos a “disaster,” with no operable businesses and bodies floating in the water.
Power was out since Sunday evening for many businesses and residents of New Providence, an island with more than 250,000 residents and home to the Bahamian capital of Nassau, the Press reported. Flooding has been experienced across the island of the capital city.
The airport is open there but few people can get to it because of the inundated streets, Michels said. He said people are calling in to radio stations with distress messages, hoping emergency responders will find them.
“The effects of this storm are incredibly far-reaching,” Michels said. “It is a world of hurt.”
Sune Bulow, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Emergency Operation Center, said a complete picture of the devastation across the Bahamas is yet to appear.
“It is clear that Hurricane Dorian has had a catastrophic impact,” she said. “We anticipate extensive shelter needs, alongside the need for short-term economic support, as well as for clean water and health assistance.”
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