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Hurricane Dorian strengthens to 'catastrophic' Category 5 as it heads for Bahamas

Prime Minister Hubert Minis has warned residents of the Bahamas they could face serious harm if they do not evacuate.

Businesses in the Bahamas have been boarded up ahead of the storm.
Businesses in the Bahamas have been boarded up ahead of the storm.
Image: Ramon Espinosa/PA

Updated Sep 1st 2019, 2:23 PM

HURRICANE DORIAN HAS strengthened into a catastrophic Category 5 storm, as it prepares to slam into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.

The hurricane is now packing 267km/h winds, according to the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC).

“#Dorian is now a category 5 #hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds,” the Miami-based NHC said.

“The eyewall of this catastrophic hurricane is about to hit the Abaco Islands with devastating winds,” it said.

The slow moving storm is expected to linger over the Bahamas throughout today and much of tomorrow, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and unleashing storm surges of 10 to 15-feet, forecasters said.

It will then “move closer to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday” but exactly where – and how hard – it will strike the US coast is uncertain.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Florida’s coast and US President Donald Trump has declared a federal state of emergency in Florida, authorising national assistance to supplement state and local efforts.

Following a similar state order in Florida, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency yesterday:

In neighboring North Carolina Governer Roy Cooper also declared a state of emergency, and Georgia announced a state of emergency for 12 counties.

Several schools canceled classes until at least Tuesday.

Orlando International Airport said it would protectively halt commercial flights at 2am (6am GMT) tomorrow.

In Grand Bahama, businesses have been boarded up and thousands have evacuated the hurricane’s predicted path.

Yasmin Rigby, a resident of the island’s main city Freeport, told AFP “people are moving out of the east and west ends, fearing the worst.”

Grocery stores’ shelves were “just about cleared,” Rigby said, and most homes and businesses had been shuttered since Friday.

bahamas-tropical-weather Residents shopping for supplies before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian. Source: Tim Aylen/PA

She said memories of past hurricanes – including 2005′s historic storm Wilma – were still fresh.

“It took weeks for water, food and electricity to be back to normal.”

The storm’s pace of 13 km per hour means as much as 25 inches of rain could land in northwestern Bahamas. That, coupled with the storm surge predictions, poses a fearful prospect for many of the islands, some barely feet above sea level.

Dorian’s current strength, with maximum sustained winds of 240 km per hour and even more powerful gusts, makes it nearly a Category 5 hurricane – the highest and most damaging level.

Prime Minister Hubert Minis issued a stark warning to residents: “The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life or other serious physical harm.”

- With reporting from AFP. 

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