Glynn County school resource officer Mark Hooper, left, and school support staff member Sheree Armstrong, right, help Elizabeth Scales board a special needs bus at Lanier Plaza as hundreds of local residents evacuate the area under mandatory evacuation ahead of Hurricane Dorian, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, in Brunswick, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

‘Catastrophic’: Hurricane Dorian parks over the Bahamas

Red Cross said about 45% of the homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco were believed to have been severely damaged or destroyed

Practically parking over the Bahamas for over a day and a half, Hurricane Dorian pounded away at the islands Tuesday in a watery onslaught that devastated thousands of homes, trapped people in attics and crippled hospitals. At least five deaths were reported, with the full extent of the damage far from clear.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross began mobilizing to deal with the unfolding humanitarian crisis. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called it “a historic tragedy.”

The storm’s relentless winds and torrential rain battered the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, which have a combined population of about 70,000 and are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts. The Grand Bahama airport was under 6 feet (2 metres) of water.

Desperate callers trying to find loved ones left messages with local radio stations as Health Minister Duane Sands said that Dorian devastated the health infrastructure in Grand Bahama island and that severe flooding rendered the main hospital unusable. He said he hoped to send an advanced medical team soon to the Abaco islands.

“We will confirm what the real situation is on the ground,” he said. “We are hoping and praying that the loss of life is limited.”

Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said more than 13,000 houses, or about 45% of the homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco, were believed to have been severely damaged or destroyed. U.N. officials said more than 60,000 people on the hard-hit islands will need food, and the Red Cross said some 62,000 will need clean drinking water.

The Red Cross authorized a half-million dollars to fund the first wave of response, Cochrane said.

“What we are hearing lends credence to the fact that this has been a catastrophic storm and a catastrophic impact,” he said.

Sands said the main hospital in Marsh Harbor in the Abaco islands was intact and sheltering 400 people but in need of food, water, medicine and surgical supplies. He said crews were trying to airlift five to seven kidney failure patients from Abaco who had not received dialysis since Friday.

To the south, the Bahamas’ most populous island, New Providence, which is the site of the capital, Nassau, and has over a quarter-million people, suffered little damage.

As of daybreak, Dorian’s winds had dipped to 120 mph (193 kph), making it a still highly dangerous Category 3 hurricane, and the storm was barely moving at 1 mph (2 kph), with part of its eyewall hanging over Grand Bahama Island since Sunday night.

The storm was centred 40 miles (70 kilometres) northeast of Freeport and 110 miles (175 kilometres) northeast of West Palm Beach, Florida. Hurricane-force winds extended out as far as 45 miles (75 kilometres) in some directions.

NASA satellite imagery through Monday night showed spots in the Bahamas where Dorian had dumped as much as 35 inches (89 centimetres) of rain, said private meteorologist Ryan Maue.

Dorian was expected to approach the Florida coast later Tuesday, but the threat to the state eased significantly, with the National Hurricane Center’s projected track showing most of the coast just outside the cone of potential landfall. No place in Florida had more than an 8% chance of getting hit by hurricane-force winds.

The forecast instead showed North Carolina in the crosshairs later in the week.

As Labor Day weekend drew to a close, over 2 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were warned to evacuate for fear Dorian could bring life-threatening storm-surge flooding even if the hurricane’s centre stayed offshore, as forecast. Several large airports announced closings, and hundreds of flights were cancelled.

The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted at least 21 people injured on Abaco Island, which Dorian hit on Sunday with sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph) and gusts up to 220 mph (355 kph), a strength matched only by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were given names.

Scientists say climate change generally has been fueling more powerful and wetter storms, and the only recorded hurricane more powerful than Dorian was Allen in 1980, with 190 mph (305 kph) winds, though it did not hit land at that strength.

Bahamian officials said they received a “tremendous” number of calls from people in flooded homes. One radio station said it got more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a 5-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a woman with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. At least two designated storm shelters flooded.

Dorian was blamed for one death in Puerto Rico at the start of its path through the Caribbean.

In the Bahamas, choppy brown floodwaters reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. Parliament member Iram Lewis said he feared waters would keep rising and stranded people would lose contact with officials as their cellphone batteries died.

“It is scary,” he said, adding that people were moving from one shelter to another as floodwaters kept surging. “We’re definitely in dire straits.”

Forecasters said that the storm had come to a near standstill because the steering currents in the atmosphere had collapsed, but that Dorian would resume moving later in the day, getting “dangerously close” to the Florida coast through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina shoreline late Thursday.

Meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned that even “a small deviation” in its projected track could take the storm toward land.

Walt Disney World in Orlando planned to close in the afternoon, and SeaWorld shut down.

In South Carolina, Interstate 26 was turned into a one-way evacuation route away from Charleston on the coast, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp likewise planned to reverse lanes on I-16 on Tuesday to speed the flow of traffic away from the danger zone.

“We’re taking the ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude,” Kemp said.

READ MORE: Category 4 Dorian bears down on Bahamas, may skirt Florida

___

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Weissenstein from Nassau, Bahamas. Associated Press journalists Tim Aylen in Freeport and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

Ramon Espinosa, DáNica Coto And Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Hope firefighter receives commendation for 50 years of service

Fred Robinson began his career on Vancouver Island, still working hard

Harrison Festival releases line-up for fall season

The 31st annual Season of Performing Arts will be kicking off Oct. 18

Man charged with stealing Chief Dan George sculpture from Abbotsford school

Piece turned up in Mission pawn shop after Chilliwack artist noticed it missing this summer

New real-time location technology coming soon to Fraser Valley buses

Waiting riders will be able to see location of their bus using their phones

Supernatural fundraiser coming to Kilby this October

The Vancouver Supernatural Group will be investigating paranormal activity at the historic site

VIDEO: Agassiz Fall Fair celebrates 115 years of fair fun

From 4H shows to pie eating contests, the annual fair brought its best to the community this year

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

Chilliwack’s Belle Voci brings three-day a cappella festival to Fraser Valley

Singers will learn from two of Lower Mainland’s best music leaders at Belle Voci A Cappella Festival

Most Read