Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in

Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
A woman walks along a beach before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Saturday Aug. 31, 2019. Hurricane Dorian is closing in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter the normally idyllic islands with fierce winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A dangerous Hurricane Dorian closed in on the northern Bahamas early Sunday, threatening to batter islands with 150 mph (240 kph) winds, pounding waves and torrential rain as people hunkered down in schools, churches and other shelters.

Millions from Florida to the Carolinas kept a wary eye on Dorian, meanwhile, amid indications it would veer sharply northeastward after passing the Bahamas and track up the U.S. Southeast seaboard. But authorities warned even if its core did not make U.S. landfall and stayed offshore, the potent Category 4 storm would likely hammer U.S. with powerful winds and heavy surf.

In the northern stretches of the Bahamas archipelago, hotels closed, residents boarded up homes and officials hired boats to move people from low-lying areas to bigger islands as Dorian approached.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned that Dorian is a "dangerous storm" and said any "who do not evacuate are placing themselves in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence."

Small skiffs shuttled Saturday between outlying fishing communities and McLean's Town, a settlement of a few dozen homes at the eastern end of Grand Bahama island, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Florida's Atlantic coast. Most people came from Sweeting Cay, a fishing town of a few hundred people about 5 feet (1.5 meters) above sea level.

  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    This Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 image provided by NASA shows a view of Hurricane Dorian from the International Space Station as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Dorian is strengthening as it moves west toward the Bahamas and Florida. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says maximum sustained winds increased Saturday, Aug. 31 morning to 145 mph (230 kph), up from 140 mph (220 kph). (NASA via AP)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    A woman carries a girl in her arms after being evacuated from a nearby Cay due to the danger of floods after arrive on a ship at the port before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Sweeting's Cay, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Saturday Aug. 31, 2019. Dorian bore down on the Bahamas as a fierce Category 4 storm Saturday, with new projections showing it curving upward enough to potentially spare Florida a direct hit but still threatening parts of the Southeast U.S. with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes what can be deadly flooding. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    A man surfs along Lake Worth beach, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Lake Worth, Fla. Hurricane Dorian is bearing down on the northwestern Bahamas as a Category 4 storm. Forecasters say Dorian is then expected to go up the Southeast coastline. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    A boy plays on the beach as a No Swimming flag flies, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Lake Worth, Fla. Hurricane Dorian is bearing down on the northwestern Bahamas as a Category 4 storm. Forecasters say Dorian is then expected to go up the Southeast coastline. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    Gold Coast Crane workers and Dania Beach lifeguards remove the lifeguard tower in preparation for Hurricane Dorian as the storm approaches the Florida coast on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at Dania Beach, Fla. The latest forecast says Hurricane Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    A group of people fish at Dania Beach Pier on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at Dania Beach, Fla. The latest forecast says Hurricane Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    A large boat is moved to a storage lot on dry land at a marina in Cape Canaveral, Fla. as boat owners prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, The latest forecast says Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    A beachgoer runs under the rain at the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 Hollywood, Fla. The latest forecast says Hurricane Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    Hollywood Beach lifeguard Nelson Sarduy looks on from the tower on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 in Hollywood, Fla. The latest forecast says Hurricane Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    Workers Elmer Ramos, right, and Mariano Arzayus put plywood over the windows of the Yogurt Ur Way Cafe in preparation for Hurricane Dorian as the storm approaches the Florida coast on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at Hollywood, Fla. The latest forecast says Hurricane Dorian is expected to stay just off shore of Florida and skirt the coast of Georgia, with the possibility of landfall still a threat on Wednesday, and then continuing up to South Carolina early Thursday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
  • Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
    This GOES-16 satellite image taken Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, at 16:00 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, right, churning over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas as a fierce Category 4 storm Saturday, with new projections showing it curving upward enough to potentially spare Florida a direct hit but still threatening parts of the Southeast U.S. with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes what can be deadly flooding.(NOAA via AP)

"We're not taking no chances," said Margaret Bassett, a ferry boat driver for the Deep Water Cay resort. "They said evacuate, you have to evacuate."

Over two or three days, the slow-moving hurricane could dump as much as 4 feet (1 meter) of rain, unleash devastating winds and whip up a dangerous storm surge, said private meteorologist Ryan Maue, seconding some of the most reliable computer models.

Government spokesman Kevin Harris said Dorian was expected to impact some 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes. Authorities closed airports for The Abaco Islands, Grand Bahama and Bimini, but Lynden Pindling International Airport at the capital of Nassau remained open.

Jeffrey Allen, who lives in Freeport on Grand Bahama, said he had learned after several storms that sometimes predictions of damage don't materialize, but he still takes precautions.

"It's almost as if you wait with anticipation, hoping that it's never as bad as they say it will be. However, you prepare for the worst nonetheless," he said.

Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
A woman carries a girl in her arms after being evacuated from a nearby Cay due to the danger of floods after arrive on a ship at the port before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Sweeting's Cay, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Saturday Aug. 31, 2019. Dorian bore down on the Bahamas as a fierce Category 4 storm Saturday, with new projections showing it curving upward enough to potentially spare Florida a direct hit but still threatening parts of the Southeast U.S. with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes what can be deadly flooding. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

On average, the Bahamas archipelago gets a direct hit from a hurricane every four years, officials said. Construction codes require homes to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for residents who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer communities, which typically have wooden homes and are generally in lower-lying areas.

Early Sunday, Dorian was centered around 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 255 miles (410 kilometers) east of West Palm Beach as it crept westward at 8 mph (13 kph).

The slow-crawling storm was predicted to take until Monday afternoon to pass over the Bahamas, and then turn sharply and skirt up the U.S. coast, staying just off Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday and then buffeting South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents along that state's densely populated Atlantic coast, "We're not out of the woods yet."

He noted some forecast models still bring Dorian close to or even onto the Florida peninsula.

Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
This photo provided by the National Hurricane Center shows a view of Hurricane Dorian from Hurricane Hunter P-3 Aircraft early Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Dorian has gained fearsome new muscle as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, bearing down on the northwestern Bahamas early Saturday en route to Florida's east coast. (Paul Chang/National Hurricane Center via AP)

"That could produce life-threatening storm surge and hurricane force winds," DeSantis said. "That cone of uncertainty still includes a lot of areas on the east coast of Florida and even into central and north Florida, so we are staying prepared and remaining vigilant."

In Miami, Carmen Segura said she had installed hurricane shutters at her house, bought extra gas and secured water and food for at least three days. She felt well prepared and less worried, given the latest forecasts, but still was uneasy given the storm's unpredictability.

"Part of me still feels like: So, now what?" Segura said.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency, mobilizing state resources to prepare for potential storm effects. President Donald Trump already declared a state of emergency and was brief late Saturday about the storm.

The hurricane upended some Labor Day holiday weekend plans in the U.S.: Major airlines allowed travelers to change their reservations without fees, big cruise lines rerouted their ships and Cumberland Island National Seashore off Georgia closed to visitors. Disney World and Orlando's other resorts held off announcing any closings.

Northern Bahamas hunkers down as Hurricane Dorian closes in
A child evacuated from a nearby Cay due to the danger of floods drags his suitcase when he arrives on a ship at the port before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Sweeting's Cay, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Saturday Aug. 31, 2019. Dorian bore down on the Bahamas as a fierce Category 4 storm Saturday, with new projections showing it curving upward enough to potentially spare Florida a direct hit but still threatening parts of the Southeast U.S. with powerful winds and rising ocean water that causes what can be deadly flooding. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Sherry Atkinson, who manages a hotel on North Carolina's Outer Banks, said the hurricane wasn't spoiling holiday vacations for guests.

"So far, there hasn't even been a snippet of conversation about evacuations," she said.


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