5 dead as Hurricane Dorian slams into the Bahamas

By Meg Wagner, Fernando Alfonso III, Mike Hayes, Tara John, Jessie Yeung and Bianca Britton, CNN

Updated 1:55 p.m. ET, September 4, 2019
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8:31 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

The 5 hurricane categories explained

CNN
CNN

Dorian's upgrade to a Category 5 hurricane is bad news. Here's why:

Meteorologists use the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure a hurricane's strength. The scale also estimates potential property damage.

Storms reaching Category 3 and higher are considered substantial hurricanes "because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage," the National Hurricane Center writes.

The system divides storms into five categories:

  • Category 1: Winds 74 to 95 mph (Minor damage)
  • Category 2: Winds 96 to 110 mph (Extensive damage — Can uproot trees and break windows)
  • Category 3: Winds 111 to 129 mph (Devastating — Can break windows and doors)
  • Category 4: Winds 130 to 156 mph (Catastrophic damage — Can tear off roofs)
  • Category 5: Winds 157 mph or higher (The absolute worst and can level houses and destroy buildings)

8:01 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

Dorian now a Category 5 storm

From CNN's Dave Hennen

Hurricane Dorian now has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. This would put the storm in the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. 

Dorian will be capable of catastrophic damage as it tracks towards the Bahamas today into tomorrow. 

Fluctuations in intensity will likely continue over the next 24 hours, but Dorian is expected to remain a very intense hurricane.

NHC said the most severe weather of the hurricane, known as the eyewall, is about to hit Abaco islands in the Bahamas.

8:49 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

Here's what Hurricane Dorian is expected to do as it approaches land

From CNN's Judson Jones

NOAA
NOAA

SUNDAY

Landfall is possible in the islands of the North Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane

Hurricane conditions arrive and continuously lash the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama

The storm's forward movement likely slows to almost a crawl over North Bahama

Life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds and very heavy rainfall will pound these northern islands

MONDAY

Dorian creeps toward Florida's east coast

Hurricane conditions are likely for anyone within 30 miles from the storm's center

Tropical-storm-force winds likely arrive along Florida coast

It continues to rain in the northwestern Bahamas, where up to 12 to 24 inches of rain is expected to fall, with isolated amounts of 30 inches

TUESDAY

Landfall is still a distinct possibility in Florida as some forecast models have shifted west again

The storm turns northward and moves up the coast of Florida or more likely offshore and along the coast

WEDNESDAY

The storm continues to produce hurricane-force winds as it heads north with some more weakening forecast

There is an increasing risk of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina

Flooding rainfall continues from southern Florida into Georgia

Closest approach to Georgia and not out of the realm of possibility for a landfall

Read the full story here

7:58 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

A shift in the forecast track means landfall could happen in Florida

From CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones

NOAA
NOAA

The forecast models are all in agreement that Dorian is going to make a turn to the north Tuesday or Wednesday. 

But exactly when is the question. This could mean the difference between a landfalling hurricane and no landfall at all.

A few of the models have gone back and forth. And this morning the National Hurricane Center, in response to a few model shifts toward the coast, moved the track slightly farther west again. 

This means that even though the center of the official forecast track is still offshore, there is still a distinct possibility of landfall in Florida. 

This is also why a portion of the tropical storm watches in Florida have now been upgraded to tropical storm warnings -- which means storm conditions are expected within 36 hours.  

7:31 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

'Now is the time to make decisions to save lives'

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe and Jason Hanna

NOAA Satellite Maps
NOAA Satellite Maps

With Hurricane Dorian forecast to hit the northern Bahamas in full force Sunday and linger there, experts say now is the time to make decisions to save lives.

"This is the time that the Bahamas (is) really going to have do some significant soul searching, whether you want to protect your valuables or protect yourself because this will be a life-threatening storm in the Bahamas," CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said.

The northwestern Bahamas is under a hurricane warning, which means "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the National Hurricane Center said.

The northern Bahamas is already starting to feel the wind and rain of the now Category 4 storm.

And conditions will only get worse as Dorian stalls over the Bahamas area -- with current models forecasting that it could stay for 24 hours or longer -- giving it plenty of time to rain down over the islands, according to CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford.

Read more here

6:37 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

Where will Dorian go next?

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe and Jason Hanna

People prepare sandbags at a municipal center as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida.
People prepare sandbags at a municipal center as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida. Mark Wilson/Getty Image

Hurricane Dorian has been threatening to make its way to the US mainland, but there is still much uncertainty on when and where it will make landfall.

The storm had been projected to reach Florida for Labor Day Weekend. But current forecasts have it turning north Monday evening. The storm is predicted to ride along the US east coast along Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, Shackelford said.

But will it make landfall on any of those states?

Shoppers in Florida grab supplies at a boarded-up strip mall in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.
Shoppers in Florida grab supplies at a boarded-up strip mall in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.  Scott Olson/Getty Images

It is not yet clear. Many models show the storm staying just off Florida's coast Tuesday and then skirting the coasts of Georgia and North and South Carolina.

Still, a major hurricane hovering just off a US coast could cause life-threatening damage.

"Understand: Even if it doesn't directly strike Florida ... you're looking at major flooding events," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Saturday in Tallahassee.

Read the full article here

7:14 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

Hundreds failed to evacuate in Bahamas, says reporter

There are hundreds of people on Abaco islands, especially on its low-lying islands known as cays, who decided not to evacuate, according to one witness.

It is unfortunate that a lot of persons on these Cays did not heed to these warnings and a lot of them are left," Theo Sealy, a reporter with Bahamas news site, Eyewitness News, told CNN Sunday.

Citing recent evacuation statistics, Sealy said that on Sweeting Cay, which is home to 125 people, only "seven persons heeded to the warning and evacuated."

"On Grand Cay, out of 400 persons only 88 persons left."

He added that in addition to the cays -- which were issued a mandatory evacuation notice Saturday -- there are low-lying areas where unregulated communities live.

"Undocumented and documented workers reside and these areas that are very well known to being prone to flooding."

5:49 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

Hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 150 mph

NOAA
NOAA

Dorian is packing 150mph winds, with conditions forecasted to deteriorate in the Bahamas over Abaco islands during the next few hours and in Grand Bahama later today, according to a 5 a.m. update by the National Hurricane Center.

It is expected to remain as a powerful hurricane in the coming days, in which "large swells will affect the east-facing shores of the Bahamas, the Florida east coast, and the southeastern United States coast," it added.

4:56 a.m. ET, September 1, 2019

Tropical storm winds hit the Bahamas

CNN Storm Tracker
CNN Storm Tracker

Tropical storm winds are now sweeping through the islands of Abaco in the Bahamas, its Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Sunday morning, as Hurricane Dorian makes its approach to the archipelago's northwest.

Tropical storm winds is forecasted to hit popular tourist hub of Grand Bahama at 9 a.m. local time and "hurricane force winds at 7pm (local)," Minnis wrote on Twitter.