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Hurricane Dorian slams into the Bahamas

It's now 2:30 a.m. in the Bahamas and Hurricane Dorian has slowed to a crawl over the island chain, battering buildings with heavy rain and winds at 180 miles per hour.

Residents are bunkering down at home in the dark and in shelters where they sought refuge as the storm hit. Sunrise isn't for another four hours, at 6:53 a.m., when local authorities will be able to survey the full extent of the damage.

Kevin Tomlinson, a resident in Freeport, Grand Bahama, told CNN just after midnight that power had been cut to the shelter where he is staying with about 40 other residents who live by the coast. There were even some tourists who got caught in the hurricane -- he said one couple was visiting from Chicago.

Tomlinson said he and other locals are preparing for some difficult weeks ahead.

"In 2004 when we had Hurricane Francis, we went through the aftermath of 10 weeks of no power, no water and everything, and we know what that felt like, but we rebuilt and we're going to rebuild again. So anything happens like that, we just rebuild again," he said.

Watch Kevin speak here:

Hurricane Dorian is slowly heading toward Florida's east coast, and could be the most recent of several Category 5 hurricanes to endanger parts of the US in the past few years. Here's a look back:

  • Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest Atlantic basin hurricanes ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, affected at least nine US states in September 2017.
  • Hurricane Maria devastated the US territory of Puerto Rico that same month, leaving millions of Americans without power, water, or shelter. Two years later, the island is still struggling to recover.
  • Hurricane Michael barrelled into the Florida Panhandle in October 2018, with damage stretching to the Carolinas, where flash floods turned roads into rivers.

Dorian is still battering the Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands. The hurricane -- the strongest on the planet anywhere this year -- is forecast to lash the region overnight and through much of Monday. It's now expected to reach Florida's east coast late Monday into Tuesday night.

Hurricane Dorian has inflicted “catastrophic damage” on several islands in the Bahamas, the Hope Town Volunteer Fire & Rescue said in a statement on Facebook. 

B. Hall, a spokesman for the volunteers, said damage was reported in Elbow Cay, Man-o-War, Marsh Harbour and the surrounding areas. Buildings had been destroyed and partially submerged with water flooding all around them.

The volunteer fire department said it had not yet received reports of the damage in Guana Cay in the northern Bahamas.

Catastrophic storm surge flooding is likely happening right now on Grand Bahama Island and residents must stay indoors, according to the National Hurricane Center's 1 a.m. update.

"This is a life-threatening situation. Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye. Residents in the Abacos should continue to stay in their shelter until conditions subside later today," said the NHC.

Wind gusts of over 200 miles per hour have been recorded and storm surges were expected to rise 18 to 23 feet (5 to 7 meters) above normal tide levels. These high waves will cause destruction for at least the next few hours, the NHC warned.

The maximum sustained winds are still moving at 180 miles per hour and the storm is slowly moving west at 5 miles per hour.

Read the update here.

Low-lying islands in the Bahamas are at highest risk as Hurricane Dorian sweeps through the island chain.

"Where we are right now, the highest point on this island is only about 30 feet high, the highest point of land -- and so when you hear about a storm surge of 20 feet, that means in the hours and days ahead, much of this island where I am standing will be underwater," said CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann on Sunday in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Islands around us which are more low-lying will be completely submerged," said Oppmann.

In its 11 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned of "life-threatening" storm surges of up to 23 feet (7 meters). The slow-moving hurricane is also expected to dump up to 30 inches of rainfall in the northwestern Bahamas.

"It is a terrifying prospect for the many people who have decided to ride out this storm on those low-lying parts of this island and other islands around us," Oppman said. "This is a storm for the history books."

Watch the segment here:

Hurricane Dorian is currently slamming the Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, where residents say their homes have been flooded and roofs blown away.

One video, taken by Vickareio Adderely in Marsh Harbour, a town in the Abaco Islands, shows a road completely underwater and trees stripped of their leaves. Inside, their kitchen is completely swamped and covered in debris.

Adderely told CNN via text message that his four family members were huddled on a single mattress in “the only room that didn’t cave in” in his house.

“There are three houses adjacent to mine that also lost their roof,” he said. He added that he was standing in water “up to his knees” and that strong winds continue to “wreck the remainder of our roof.”

“There is no way we could have been prepared for this,” he wrote. “My house sounds like the ocean.”

Adderely said his sister, Petera Major, have set up a GoFundMe page to help their community rebuild after the storm.

Watch the video here:

Christina Dowe, a resident in Wilmington, North Carolina, had her home all but destroyed during Hurricane Florence last year. She bought a new home just three block away last November, and is now getting ready for another destructive hurricane as Dorian approaches.

"We've just been trying to get perishables, getting water, getting flashlights. Just trying to get the necessities, things that we need, so we can be better prepared than we was last year," Dowe told CNN on Sunday evening.

"No-one can really tell on how strong it's going to hold up. You know what I'm saying? All we can do is pray," she said.

She and her sons plan to stay at home. "I don't know, like, where we would go to get away from it, because I don't want to leave and then we can't get back. So we're just going to buckle down and just pray that everything works out better than it did last year," she said.

Watch the segment here:

The Hurricane Watch and Storm Surge Watch in Florida have been extended northward from the Flagler/Volusia County Line to the mouth of the St. Mary's River.

Here is a summary of all the watches and warnings currently in effect for Hurricane Dorian:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Northwestern Bahamas excluding Andros Island.
  • Jupiter Inlet to the Volusia/Brevard County Line.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • Andros Island.
  • North of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet.
  • Volusia/Brevard County Line to the Mouth of the St. Mary's River.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • North of Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach.
  • Lake Okeechobee.

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:

  • North of Deerfield Beach to Lantana.
  • Volusia/Brevard County Line to the Mouth of the St. Mary's River.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Lantana to the Volusia/Brevard County Line.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for north of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet.

This NOAA GOES-East satellite image shows Hurricane Dorian heading toward the Florida coast, taken on September 1, 2019.
This NOAA GOES-East satellite image shows Hurricane Dorian heading toward the Florida coast, taken on September 1, 2019. NOAA via Getty Images

Dorian is still battering the Abacos and Grand Bahama Islands, according to the latest public advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Storm surges are expected to raise water levels as high as 18 to 23 feet (5 to 7 meters) above normal, producing "large and destructive" waves along the coast of both islands.

The hurricane is forecast to lash the region overnight and through much of Monday. It's now expected to reach Florida's east coast late Monday into Tuesday night.

Residents in the Bahamas should not venture out into the eye, the calmest center of the storm, the NHC said, because as the eye passes, winds will suddenly increase to dangerous levels.

Dorian's wind speeds have slowed slightly from 185 miles per hour to 180 mph, but it's still a Category 5 hurricane.

"Slow weakening is forecast, but fluctuations in intensity could occur couple of days. Regardless, Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days," the advisory read.

The center of the storm at 11p.m. is located 55 miles (90 km) east of Freeport on Grand Bahama and 135 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida. Dorian is moving westward at only 6 mph (9 kph).

Read the full advisory here.