Hurricane Dorian continued to batter the Bahamas and Abaco Islands early Monday with winds up to 200 mph and extreme storm surges, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Category 5 storm has become the strongest hurricane on modern record to hit the northwestern Bahamas, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In an earlier update, federal forecasters had warned that the storm had become extremely intense, and cautioned people to remain alert even though current predictions don’t have the storm making landfall on the U.S. mainland.
“A small deviation to the left of the track could bring the intense core of the hurricane and its dangerous winds closer to or onto the coast,” they said.
Forecasters said the core of the storm was slowing as it continued to sweep through the Bahamas. It is then predicted to take a northward turn toward Florida’s east coast, where some coastal residents have been put under evacuation orders, the Journal adds.
“This is a life-threatening situation. Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye,” the National Hurricane Center said in a 3 a.m. update.
Hubert Minnis, prime minister of the Bahamas, called Dorian a historic storm that could bring storm surges washing over some island rooftops. He worried about island residents who hadn’t heeded calls to move to safety.
“This will put us to a test that we’ve never confronted before,” Minnis said in a Sunday afternoon press conference. “This is a deadly storm and a monster of a storm.”
Darren Henfield, the Bahamas foreign minister, said in a video posted on Twitter that he had participated in efforts in the Abaco Islands to evacuate people from damaged homes and buildings. “We’re doing our best,” he said. “We’re strong, and we’re going to be OK.”
The storm had grown larger late Sunday, with hurricane force winds extending up to 45 miles out from Dorian’s center. It had maximum sustained winds of about 185 miles an hour, with some gusts over 220 mph, and was moving west at about 5 mph, the Journal noted.
In Florida, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for low-lying and other at-risk areas in Brevard, Martin and Palm Beach, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia counties, including the area in Palm Beach where President Trump ’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located. Other counties, including Flagler, Glades and Osceola, issued voluntary evacuation orders for some areas, according to the state’s Division of Emergency Management.