Hurricane Dorian: Bahamas braces for category five storm
Hurricane Dorian has become a category five storm and is expected to hit the Bahamas with devastating winds and very heavy rainfall, forecasters say.
The “extremely dangerous” storm is expected to slam the island chain on Sunday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, before making landfall on the US east coast.
Grand Bahama residents have been evacuating from its predicted path.
The storm surge could be as high as 15ft (4.6m), officials warned.
Authorities closed some airports in the outlying islands, but the main international airport remains open on Sunday.
The storm was on Sunday morning about 35 miles east of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island, moving westward at 8mph (13km/h) with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160mph (260km/h).
After hitting the Bahamas, it was expected to move up the US coast, grazing Florida, which had expected a direct hit but appeared to have been spared the worst by a change in the storm’s path.
Dorian’s wind speeds put the storm among the most dangerous in recent history. Forecasters warned that it could be the region’s worst since the category five Hurricane Andrew killed 65 people and destroyed 63,000 homes in 1992.
US President Donald Trump said he was monitoring Dorian, which he described as “an extremely dangerous storm” on Twitter. He cancelled a planned trip to Poland, sending Vice-President Mike Pence in his place.
Hurricanes, which vary in strength from category one to five on the Saffir-Simpson scale, tend to get stronger as they move over warm waters like those off the coast of Florida.
Forecasters said they expected Dorian to shift eastwards around the middle of the week, putting the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina at risk.
The NHC said “life-threatening storm surge, devastating hurricane-force winds, and heavy rains capable of life-threatening flash floods” were expected to hit the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama on Sunday.
The country’s National Emergency Management Agency said it believed that the damage might be exacerbated by an expected slowing in the storm’s movement, keeping it over the islands for longer.