Hurricane Dorian, the second-strongest Atlantic storm on record, pounded the Bahamian islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama on Sunday night and was forecast to move dangerously close to Florida in the next two days, U.S. forecasters said.
Hazards for the Abaco Islands included storm surges 18 to 23 feet (5.5 to 7 metres) above normal tide levels, with higher destructive waves, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
At 11 p.m. (0300) GMT, the hurricane was about 135 miles (220 km) from the Florida coast, parts of which were being evacuated, as it crawled westward. Farther north, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of eight coastal counties effective at noon (1600 GMT) on Monday.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ordered evacuations in all or parts of six coastal counties also effective at noon on Monday.
Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, the NHC said.
“On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands tonight and Monday,” the NHC said. “The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night.”
Dorian is forecast to remain a hurricane for the next five days, the NHC said. Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kph) and gusts of more than 220 mph (354 kph).