Despite having been downgraded from a fierce Category-5 storm to a Category-2, hurricane Dorian had stalled over the northern Bahamas for over 36 hours–extremely unusual behavior for a tropical storm–killing at least nine people and destroying tens of thousands of homes, causing “unprecedented and extensive” destruction, according to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.
Having been trapped between two high pressure systems, a Bermuda high in the mid-Atlantic and another in the Caribbean just north of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Dorian began tracking northeast along the coast when it began to move again late on Tuesday, and is expected to slowly make its way up to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night, and the North Carolina coast late Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Evacuation orders have been issued for numerous counties along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, along with hurricane and tropical storm alerts issued for other regions across the same states. Seven have already died on the Bahamian Abaco Islands, where Dorian first struck as a category-5 storm on September 1, along with two other people killed, one in Puerto Rico and another in Florida.
By the morning of September 2, the Grand Bahama International Airport was under six feet (two meters) of water, inundated by a storm surge estimated to be 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 meters) high. As many as 13,000 houses, or about 45 percent of the homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco, were damaged or destroyed, along with fears that seawater has contaminated water wells, prompting an urgent call for clean water for over 62,000 people.
Dorian is the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Bahamas since record-keeping began in 1851, with sustained winds of 185 mph (295 km/h) at its peak. The storm also has the highest sustained wind speeds of any Atlantic hurricane recorded as far north as Dorian’s latitude on record, and is tied with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the highest sustained winds at landfall in an Atlantic hurricane. Dorian is also one of only two Category-5 hurricanes to make landfall on the Abaco Islands, the other having occurred in 1932, and is the only such storm on record to have ever struck Grand Bahama.