Evacuations begin in Bahamas as Category 4 Dorian bears down

Over two or three days, the hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet of rain

Hurricane Dorian shut down most major resorts in the Bahamas and forced authorities to evacuate much of the northern shore and low-lying islands Saturday as the fierce Category 4 storm prepared to unleash torrents of rain but was projected to spin farther away from the coast of the Southeast U.S. next week.

Forecasters expect Dorian, which packed 240 kilometre-per-hour winds, to hit the northwestern part of the Bahamas on Sunday before curving upward. The storm’s slow march north could spare a direct hit in the U.S. but still threatens Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes potentially deadly flooding.

In the Bahamas, any remaining tourists were sent to government shelters in schools, churches and other buildings offering protection from the storm.

“My home is all battened up, and I’m preparing right now to leave in a couple of minutes. … We’re not taking no chances,” said Margaret Bassett, 55, a ferry boat driver for the Deep Water Cay resort who chose to leave her home. “They said evacuate, you have to evacuate. It’s for the best interests of the people.”

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

Over two or three days, the hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet of rain, unleash high winds and whip up an abnormal rise in sea level called storm surge, according to private meteorologist Ryan Maue and some of the most reliable computer models.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned in a nationally televised briefing that “Hurricane Dorian is a devastating, dangerous storm approaching our islands.”

Small skiffs rented by Bahamas authorities ran back and forth between outlying fishing communities and McLean’s Town, a settlement of a few dozen homes on the eastern end of Grand Bahama, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) from Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Most were coming from Sweeting Cay, a fishing town of a few hundred people that sits about 5 feet (1.5 metres) above sea level and was expected to be left completely underwater by storm surge.

Still, a few fishermen planned to ride it out, which could put them in extreme danger.

“Hoping for the best, that the storm passes and everybody is safe until we return home,” fisherman Tyrone Mitchell said. “All the ladies and children evacuated, and we have about six or seven men that (will) ride out the storm.”

The Bahamas on average faces a direct hit from a hurricane every four years. One Category 5 hurricane and seven Category 4 hurricanes have struck the Bahamas since storms were first recorded in 1851.

Construction codes require homes to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for residents who can afford it. Poorer communities typically have wooden homes and are generally lower-lying, placing them at tremendous risk.

After walloping the islands, forecasters said the ever-strengthening Dorian was expected to dance up the Southeast coastline, staying just off the shores of Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday before skirting South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, mobilizing state resources to prepare for the possibility the storm could still make landfall. Trump already declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to co-ordinate disaster-relief efforts.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the risk of strong winds and rising water will increase along the shores of Georgia and the Carolinas by the middle of next week.

The centre also stressed that Dorian could still hit Florida. But after days of a forecast that put the state in the centre of expected landfalls, the storm’s turn northeast is significant.

Carmen Segura, 32, said she had installed hurricane shutters at her house in Miami, bought extra gas and secured water and food for at least three days. She feels well prepared and less worried given the latest forecasts but still a bit uneasy given how unpredictable the storm’s expected path has been.

“Part of me still feels like: So, now what?” she said.

Millions of people in Florida have been in the changing potential path of the hurricane, and Gov. Ron DeSantis warned them not to let their guard down.

“Looking at these forecasts, a bump in one direction or the other could have really significant ramifications in terms of impact. If it bumps further east, that obviously is positive. If it bumps just a little west, than you’re looking at really, really significant impacts,” DeSantis said.

Maue, the meteorologist, said that though “the worst effects of a direct landfall are not in the forecast,” ”it’s going to be pretty scary because you’re going to have this gigantic hurricane sitting off the coast of Florida, and it’s not going to move.”

The storm upended Labor Day weekend plans. Major airlines began allowing travellers to change their reservations without fees. The big cruise lines began rerouting their ships.

Disney World and Orlando’s other resorts faced a potential risk, but they held off announcing any closings with Dorian days away and its track uncertain. Florida authorities also have not ordered immediate mass evacuations.

But some counties told residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying areas to flee beginning Sunday — though those orders could change.

Dorian was centred 415 miles (670 kilometres) east of West Palm Beach and was moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).

In the Bahamas, canned food and bottled water disappeared quickly from shelves and people boarded up their homes.

“We ask for God’s guidance and for God to assist us through this,” Minnis said.

Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Michael Balsamo in Washington; Michael Weissenstein in Havana, Cuba; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Freida Frisaro, Adriana Gomez Licon and Marcus Lim in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; and Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.

Tim Aylen, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stop checks, searches of Wet’suwet’en pipeline opposers unlawful: Watchdog

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs file complaint

Wet’suwet’en pipeline supporters speak up

“Protesters get one side of the story and they stand up with their fists in the air.”

Federal minister pledges to meet Wet’suwet’en chiefs in Smithers over natural gas pipeline

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they are visiting Mohawk territory

Lake Kathlyn school sold to Wet’suwet’en for new seat of government

The 11.64-acre property was listed in mid-January for an asking price of $1.1 million.

‘Kids saw this as their legacy’: SSS students speak against decision to remove painted ceiling tiles

As of Feb. 20 an online petition against the decision is currently at just under 1,250 signatures

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Shopping cart collector at B.C. Costco awarded $583,000 after getting pinned by car

Kurtis Ryan Burdeniuk, 22, was retrieving carts when a driver backed into him in the parking lot

‘Usain Bolt he was not’: B.C. gang police seize drugs, cash after foot chase

‘The man took off running when he saw our officers approaching,’ CFSEU BC says

Canadians released from coronavirus-ridden cruise ship in Japan fly home

Those who were cleared to travel are to be screened again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Trudeau promises update on blockades as Wet’suwet’en chiefs meet Mohawk supporters

B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to Coastal GasLink

Petition seeks to remove B.C. police department from case of murdered 24-year-old real estate agent

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Most Read