Hurricane Dorian: Bahamas slammed by category five storm

Hurricane Dorian has struck the northern Bahamas as the catastrophic Category 5 storm brought 185mph winds that ripped off roofs and tore down power lines.

Hundreds hunkered in schools, churches and other shelters for protection.

The second-strongest Atlantic hurricane since 1950, Dorian hit land in Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands after authorities made last-minute pleas for those in low-lying areas to evacuate.

But officials recognised there were not many structures on higher ground on the largely flat archipelago south-east of Florida.

Millions from Florida to the Carolinas kept a wary eye on the slow-moving Dorian amid indications it would veer sharply north-east after passing the Bahamas and track up the US south-east seaboard.

Authorities warned even if its core did not make US landfall and stayed offshore, the potent storm would likely hammer coastal areas with powerful winds and heavy surf.

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami said Dorian's maximum sustained winds at landfall were 185mph, up from 175mph. It is moving west at 7mph.

"Catastrophic conditions" are occurring in The Abaco Islands and expected across Grand Bahama later in the day, the centre said.

Dorian was second only to Hurricane Allen in 1980, with its 190mph winds.

"It's going to be really, really bad for the Bahamas," Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said.

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RIVIERA BEACH, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 1: Workers place shutters over the windows of a Food Mart store as the owner prepares just in case Hurricane Dorian hits the area on September 1, 2019 in Riviera Beach, Florida. Dorian was projected to make landfall along the Florida coast but now projections have it making a sharp turn to the north as it closes in on Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Yolande Rolle puts sandbags at her shop's doorstep as she prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Hurricane Dorian intensified yet again Sunday as it closed in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter islands with Category 5-strength winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Ocean waves are seen during the approach of Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas. - Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Sunday, packing 160 mph (267 kph) winds as it was about to slam into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, US weather forecasters said."#Dorian is now a category 5 #hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a tweet. "The eyewall of this catastrophic hurricane is about to hit the Abaco Islands with devastating winds," it said.The slow moving storm was expected to linger over the Bahamas through Sunday and much of Monday, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and unleashing storm surges of 10 to 15-feet, forecasters said. (Photo by Lucy WORBOYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUCY WORBOYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Anastacia Makey, 43, far right, looks at her phone as she and her family sits on cots with other residents inside a church that was opened up as a shelter as they wait out Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Hurricane Dorian intensified yet again Sunday as it closed in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter islands with Category 5-strength winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A man walks into a grocery store ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Titusville, Florida, U.S., September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello
A woman walks to a grocery store ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Titusville, Florida, U.S., September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello
A sign is seen at Veterans Memorial Park ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Titusville, Florida, U.S., September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) briefing on hurricane Dorian at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Women sit on cots inside a church now serving as a shelter for residents who will wait out Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Hurricane Dorian intensified yet again Sunday as it closed in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter islands with Category 5-strength winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Dr Michael Brennan, Branch Chief Hurricane Specialists Unit, makes a network television appearance at the National Hurricane Center ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A man stands on a store's roof as he works to prepare it for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Hurricane Dorian intensified yet again Sunday as it closed in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter islands with Category 5-strength winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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In the northern stretches of the Bahamas archipelago, hotels closed, residents boarded up homes and officials hired boats to move people from low-lying areas to bigger islands as Dorian approached.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned any "who do not evacuate are placing themselves in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence".

Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama island, urged residents to "please, please heed the warning".

He added: "We have no more time available."

Still, dozens of people were ignoring evacuation orders, officials said, and they were warned that they were placing their lives in danger.

"The end could be fatal," said Samuel Butler, assistant police commissioner.

"We ask you, we beg you, we plead with you to get to a place of safety."

The Government has opened 14 shelters across the Bahamas.

"We cannot stress the amount of devastation and catastrophic impact that Hurricane Dorian is expected to bring," said Shavonne Moxey-Bonamy, the Bahamas chief meteorologist.

Over two or three days, the slow-moving hurricane could dump as much as 4ft of rain, unleash devastating winds and whip up a dangerous storm surge, private meteorologist Ryan Maue said.

Government spokesman Kevin Harris said Dorian was expected to affect 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes.

Authorities closed airports for The Abaco Islands, Grand Bahama and Bimini but Lynden Pindling International Airport in the capital of Nassau remained open.

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The slow-crawling storm was predicted to take until Monday afternoon to pass over the Bahamas and then turn sharply and skirt up the US coast, staying just off Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday and then buffeting South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

The National Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane watch on Sunday morning for Florida's east coast from Deerfield Beach north to the Volusia and Brevard county line.

The same area was also put under a storm surge watch. Lake Okeechobee was put under a tropical storm watch.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis warned residents along the state's densely populated Atlantic coast: "We're not out of the woods yet."

He noted some forecast models still bring Dorian close to or even onto the Florida peninsula.

"That could produce life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds," Mr DeSantis said.

"That cone of uncertainty still includes a lot of areas on the east coast of Florida and even into central and north Florida, so we are staying prepared and remaining vigilant."

Palm Beach County announced a mandatory evacuation for the eastern half of the county beginning at 1pm on Sunday after the morning forecast put the area in a tropical storm warning.

The evacuation includes mobile homes, substandard housing, low-lying areas prone to flooding and homes along the Intracoastal Waterway and on barrier islands.

South Carolina governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency, mobilising state resources to prepare for potential storm effects.

President Donald Trump already declared a state of emergency and was briefed about what he called "a very, very powerful hurricane".

"We don't know where it's going to hit but we have an idea, probably a little bit different than the original course," Mr Trump said.

"But it can change its course again and it can go back more toward Florida."

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