09/29/2020

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Hurricane Dorian Updates: Storm’s Reach Sprawls From Bahamas to Florida

RIGHT NOW-Hurricane Dorian’s winds have lost some of their force, but extend farther from its center. The storm is now a Category 2 hurricane, inching northwest away from the Bahamas.

Hurricane Dorian, now a Category 2 storm, is finally inching away from the Bahamas, where rescue missions were hampered on Tuesday because so many police and government vehicles are submerged in rising seawater.

The storm, which hit the northern Bahamas as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, has pummeled the islands for more than two days with unrelenting rain and wind, and has killed at least five people there. It is highly unusual for a storm of Dorian’s magnitude to halt and hover over land, as it did in the Bahamas.

By Tuesday afternoon its center was north of Grand Bahama Island and creeping northwest at 5 miles an hour. With maximum sustained winds at 110 m.p.h., Dorian was expected to start turning north and to travel parallel to Florida’s eastern coast by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm is not expected to leave the Grand Bahama area until 10 p.m. or midnight, said Kevin D. Harris, director general of the Bahamas Information Center

Emergency offices have received at least 200 frantic calls from people stranded on their rooftops or attics. Responders were trying to help after the eye passed over the island, but “some of the bigger vehicles, dump trucks and fire engines are trying to get through the water,” Mr. Harris said.

There was so much water that government offices, including the government radio station, had to move out of the lower floors of buildings. A government minister who was stuck in his flooded home was rescued, Mr. Harris said.

“Some folks were in more of a desperate situation than others,” he said. “We are seeing unprecedented levels of water. ”

He said there was deep concern for the Abaco Islands, which took the full brunt of the hurricane, because many Haitian migrants live there in two shantytowns, known as the Mud and Pigeon Peas. Videos showed stunned residents of the island looking at crumpled cars, smashed homes, piles of debris and contorted trees.

“We are already hearing from residents that whole towns have been wiped out and devastated,” Mr. Harris said. “This is going to be a big search-and-rescue and rebuilding effort. I don’t think we have seen anything as bad as this. This one is for the history books.”

Forecasters said the hurricane would move “dangerously close” to the Florida coast, beginning late Tuesday night and continuing through Wednesday evening. Then it is expected to move northward to affect the Georgia and South Carolina coasts beginning late on Wednesday. By the end of the week it is expected to be shadowing the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia.

Even if the hurricane’s center does not cross the coastline, powerful winds and rain are all but certain to disrupt life in the region. The storm has grown in size as it has weakened in strength, and its hurricane-force winds were extending outward as far as 60 miles from its center on Tuesday, up from 45 miles on Sunday. Winds of tropical-storm force extended as far as 175 miles from the center.

Much of Florida’s eastern coast is also likely to be hit with dangerous storm surges.

Rain bands and tropical storm-strength winds pelted Palm Beach County on Tuesday morning. The authorities cautioned that residents should remain indoors throughout the day, and people appeared to be heeding the advice. But some people ventured outside, including a few wading in ankle-deep storm surge during high tide at a waterfront park in Lantana.

A spokesman for Florida Power & Light, the state’s giant utility, said it had restored electricity for some 60,000 customers through 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry warned that the window to prepare for Dorian was quickly closing as the hurricane started to move. The city was deploying teams to rescue residents and clear roads as needed.

“Today is your last day to get prepared,” Mr. Curry said. “This is no time to rest and think that everything’s going to be O.K.”

Winds whipped Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday as Dorian approached the Florida coast.
Winds whipped Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday as Dorian approached the Florida coast.CreditEve Edelheit for The New York Times

Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina told reporters Tuesday that 244,000 people had already left the coastal regions of the state, where a mandatory evacuation has been ordered. State officials issued the order for all or part of eight coastal counties, an area whose population is roughly 830,000.

Mr. McMaster said that residents should take Dorian seriously, saying that up to 10 inches of rain was expected and that flooding was all but inevitable.

“There’s plenty of gas and plenty of room to leave,” Mr. McMaster said, adding, “You can always come back.”

In the low-lying and flood-prone city of Charleston, S.C., city officials began distributing sandbags at 8 a.m. Tuesday, and opened parking garages to give residents a safer place to store their cars. The city is within the mandatory evacuation area.

As residents of Florida’s Atlantic coast stirred from days of storm anxiety and being stuck indoors, Gov. Ron DeSantis reminded them that Dorian’s threat is not over. Many counties will only now start feeling the hurricane’s effects as it crawls north.

“I appreciate a lot of Floridians hanging in there,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We’re here until the duration, monitoring this thing.”

George Recktenwald, the administrator of Volusia County, said he knew residents were getting “antsy.” But he noted that Dorian’s 110 m.p.h. winds are just 1 mile an hour below Category 3, and that the storm will swipe the coast for the next 24 hours even though it did not look likely to make landfall there.

Farther south, in Indian River County, officials lifted a mandatory coastal evacuation order, but they asked residents to avoid storm “sightseeing.”

“Stay close to home,” said Jason Brown, the county administrator.

Cameras outside the station captured views at 10:37am ET on Sept 3 of #HurricaneDorian from 260 miles in altitude as it began to move from an almost stationary position over the northwestern Bahamas. http://blogs.nasa.gov/hurricanes/tag/dorian-2019/ …1,05111:41 AM – Sep 3, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy395 people are talking about this

Residents began evacuating Tuesday from the coasts of Georgia and North and South Carolina, as meteorologists warned that Hurricane Dorian would probably bring tornadoes, life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds along the coasts of the three states into Thursday.

A mandatory evacuation order took effect for Georgia’s coastal counties at noon Eastern time on Tuesday. In Savannah, restaurants like Clary’s Café and the Two Cracked Eggs Café were open for breakfast in the morning, but downtown was beginning to empty out, as residents and tourists apparently heeded the passionate plea of Mayor Eddie DeLoach.

“I can’t decide for you, but I’m asking you, as the mayor of Savannah: Please attempt to get out of town as best you can, and come back in a few days and begin your life over and move forward,” Mr. DeLoach said in a public appearance Monday night, according to The Savannah Morning News.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said he would issue an evacuation order for all of the state’s barrier islands, noting that some people had already begun to leave.

“We’re still hoping this thing will move off to the east, and won’t hit us too bad,” Mr. Cooper said. “We know the forecast does bring it very close, if not onto the North Carolina coast. And so we’re going to be ready for it.”

A steady flow of traffic headed away from Hilton Head Island, S.C., after mandatory evacuations were ordered ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s anticipated arrival.
A steady flow of traffic headed away from Hilton Head Island, S.C., after mandatory evacuations were ordered ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s anticipated arrival.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times

Florida has survived so many major hurricanes that the lessons the state has learned could fill a textbook for disaster preparation and response.

Perhaps no truth is more frightening than the fact that a storm need not reach Category 5 strength — or even strike land — to wreak havoc on the jutting Florida peninsula and its 21.2 million residents.

As of 2017, Florida had around 850,000 mobile homes, more than any other state in the nation. It also has some of the nation’s most stringent standards for mobile home construction and installation, a legacy of Hurricane Andrew. The standards were credited with helping many mobile homes survive Hurricane Irma in 2017.

This lesson became evident in September 2017, when a dozen residents of a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home died in the intense heat after Hurricane Irma. The storm had caused widespread power failures, and the nursing home lost its air-conditioning.

The episode shocked Florida lawmakers into action, compelling them to pass a law that requires nursing homes to have backup generators and enough fuel to maintain comfortable temperatures during power failures.

Hurricane Matthew never made landfall in Florida in 2016. Instead, it hugged the state’s Atlantic coast in a path similar to the one forecast for Hurricane Dorian. But Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm, nevertheless flooded St. Augustine. Hurricane Irma did the same the following year, leaving St. Augustine and Jacksonville underwater, despite never hitting either city directly.

When Hurricane Michael flattened parts of the Florida Panhandle last year, it exposed a serious weakness in the state’s building code: Stringent rules to make homes along the Atlantic coast resistant to fierce winds were more lenient in the Panhandle, a region historically less prone to hurricanes. Older properties in the scenic town of Mexico Beach, Fla., did not stand a chance against that storm, a Category 5 beast.

Hurricane Irma left as many as 15 million people without power in 2017. But officials said that they were learning from past mistakes and embracing new technology.

Concrete power poles have replaced many older wooden ones. New switches installed in transformers allow the devices to be reset without sending out repair crews. All five million customers have meters that allow the company to know when someone has no power, even if they are out of town. Drones buzz over neighborhoods after storms to help identify problems with the

Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez of Miami-Dade County said the government would begin accepting donations of supplies for the ravaged islands at four sites.

“We’ll match our thoughts and prayers with action by offering as much assistance as we can in the aftermath of this unprecedented event,” he said, accompanied by local and Bahamian officials at a Tuesday morning news conference.

Bahamians were among the first settlers of Miami, and many families can trace their lineage to the archipelago. Some still have relatives there, including Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

“They are battered, but they are not broken,” she said.

Linda Treco-Mackey, the consul general of the Bahamas in Miami, said she hoped Dorian would quickly peel north and out to sea.

“We are, as a people, just hoping that we get past these next few days,” she said.

Volunteers in Miami gathered cases of water on Tuesday that are being donated to the relief effort in the Bahamas.
Volunteers in Miami gathered cases of water on Tuesday that are being donated to the relief effort in the Bahamas.CreditScott McIntyre for The New York Times
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