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'Pure hell': Category 5 Hurricane Dorian brings historic destruction to Bahamas

Posted at 7:48 AM, Sep 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-02 07:48:51-04

Hurricane Dorian is a massive Category 5 hurricane Monday morning with sustained winds of 165 mph as it continues to batter the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean.

Dorian, which came ashore on Elbow Cay of the Abaco Islands, is tied for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record, along with a hurricane on Labor Day in 1935 that struck the Florida Keys and moved up along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Winds are currently blowing at a sustained 165 MPH -- the same strength that Hurricane Andrew had when it hit parts of the Miami metro area in 1992.

The eye of the storm made a second landfall at 2 p.m. on the island near Marsh Harbour, and a third landfall an hour before midnight on the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island.

Devastating conditions continued on the Abaco Islands overnight, with western portions of Grand Bahama, including the main city of Freeport, seeing the situation head south through the early morning.

Francis Charles, who rode out the storm in Hope Town, Elbow Cay, called the island "a wreck" late Sunday.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life," Jenise Fernandez, reporter with Miami ABC affiliate WPLG, told the station during their broadcast.

ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore, who is on the ground in Marsh Harbour, described the scene as "pure hell."

"I have seen utter devastation here in Marsh Harbour. We are surrounded by water with no way out," Moore said. "Absolution devastation, there really are no words it is pure hell here on Marsh Harbour on Avoca Island in the northern part of the Bahamas."

The National Hurricane Center is calling the storm a life-threatening situation with extreme destruction and the potential for wind gusts over 200 mph.

"Today I gave a live national briefing on the extremely dangerous #HurricaneDorian from NEMA Headquarters," Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a tweet Sunday night. "This is probably the saddest and worst day for me to address the Bahamian people. We are facing a hurricane that we have never seen in The Bahamas. Please pray for us."

The town of Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco island has catastrophic damage, according to an ABC News team on the ground, with boats on rooftops and uprooted trees.

It is the strongest hurricane in modern record for the northwestern Bahamas.

But with the slow motion of Dorian, the prolonged duration of hurricane and tropical stormforce winds with gusts over 100 mph, storm surges of up to 20 feet and heavy rain of up to 30 inches locally in some areas will have potentially devastating impacts on the northern Bahamas.

Hurricane Dorian’s path continues with the trend seen over the last day, keeping landfall away from Florida as the steering ridge of high pressure will weaken and allow for Dorian to take that turn to the north. The timing of that turn will be what determines the severity of impacts on Florida’s east coast.

While there are competing models for where the storm could hit, the east coast of Florida still should brace for potential landfall from Dorian.

Here is the current path of Hurricane Dorian. It looks like the closest passage to Florida will be on Cape Canaveral by Tuesday night into Wednesday morning with winds of 125 mph which would make it a Category 3 hurricane. Gusty winds of up to 80 mph and storm surge will be the biggest threat for eastern coast of Florida next few days.

Beyond Wednesday, Hurricane Dorian will recurve northeast and will come really close to the Carolinas, especially near Wilmington and up to Cape Hatteras. At that time, winds are expected to be a Category 2 hurricane near 100 MPH.

On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that tolls on the state's turnpike mainline will be suspended for aid evacuations.

Palm Beach County International Airport, Orlando Melbourne International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will cease operations on Monday at noon. Orlando International Airport will not be closing.

The biggest threat for Florida over the next few days will be storm surge. From West Palm to Jacksonville storm surge could reach 7 feet with waves on top of it and the new moon high tide. Significant flooding is also expected in coastal Florida over the next few days.

As Dorian makes its northward turn Monday into Tuesday, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina will be on high alert. Although the official National Hurricane Center track keeps the center of Dorian right off the coast as of now, the impacts will still be greatly felt.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Florida's east coast from Jupiter all the way to the Florida-Georgia border.

Dorian will still be a Category 1 or 2 storm with winds of 90 to 100 mph just off the coast making when the storm makes its closet approach to South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday into Friday.

There is still high uncertainty in the track three to five days out and Dorian still has the potential to make landfall in the southeast states.

The Bahamas should expect storm surges of up to 15 to 20 feet, rainfall of up to 30 inches and prolonged hurricane-force winds, large and destructive waves and wind gusts of over 100 mph.

It is difficult to predict what to expect in the southeastern United States, but isolated rain of up to 15 inches could be possible with tropical storm force winds and life-threatening surf and rip currents.

What is certain from Hurricane Dorian is that there will be a prolonged period of life-threatening storm surge, devastating hurricane-force winds and heavy rains capable of producing life-threatening flash floods on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama through Monday while the hurricane warning remains in effect for these areas.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for all counties Sunday afternoon.

"North Carolina has endured flooding from two strong hurricanes in less than three years,” Cooper said in a press release announcing the declaration. "Now is the time to prepare for Dorian. To the people of North Carolina, particularly those still recovering in the eastern part of our state, we are working hard to prepare and we are with you."

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal counties beginning on Tuesday. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp later did the same in his state.

Heavy rains, capable of producing life-threatening flash floods are possible over coastal sections of the Southeast and lower mid-Atlantic regions of the United States through late this week.

Mandatory evacuations in FloridaPalm Beach County: Areas east of the intracoastal waterway including coastal sections of Jupiter, Palm Beach and Boca Raton. Beginning on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Volusia County: Residents on the beach side, in low-lying areas and mobile homes throughout the county. Beginning on Monday at 10 a.m.

Martin County: Barrier islands (including Hutchinson Island, Jupiter Island), Sewall's Point and low-lying coast areas and manufactured homes. Beginning on Sunday at 1 p.m.

St. Lucie County: Barrier islands and low-lying coastal areas and manufactured homes. Beginning on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Indian River County: All areas east of U.S. Highway 1 including barrier island. Beginning on Monday at 8 a.m.

Brevard County: Barrier islands (including areas from Kennedy Space Center South to the South Beaches, Merritt Island) and low-lying coastal areas and manufactured homes. Beginning on Monday at 8 a.m.

St. Johns County: Zones that include the entire City of St. Augustine, the City of St. Augustine Beach, waterfront or flood-prone areas and manufactured homes. Beginning on Monday at 8 a.m.

Duval County: Zones that include Jacksonville beaches. Beginning on Monday at 8 a.m.

Nassau County: Issued for zones A, C and F/

Mandatory evacuations in South CarolinaSouthern Coast: Colleton County evacuation zones A and B; Beaufort County evacuation zone A; Jasper County evacuation zone A

Central Coast: Charleston County evacuation zones A, B and C; Dorchester County evacuation zone D; Berkeley County evacuation zones B and G

Northern Coast: Horry County evacuation zone A; Georgetown County evacuation zone A

Mandatory evacuations in GeorgiaIndividuals east of Interstate 95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties at noon on Tuesday

Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.

ABC News' Brittany Borer and Marcus Moore contributed to this report.