Hurricane Dorian: Florida governor warns residents they're 'not out of the woods yet'

ABOVE: Florida braces as Hurricane Dorian barrels towards U.S.

Hurricane Dorian bore down on the northern Bahamas on Saturday with howling winds, surging seas and a threat of torrential rains, forcing some evacuations and hotel closures ahead of the fierce Category 4 storm.

Forecasters expected Dorian, packing 150 mph (240 kph) winds, to hit some Bahamian islands Sunday before heading near Florida and then skirting along or off the U.S. Southeast seacoast. The projected turn north in the coming days could spare the U.S. a direct hit, but would still threaten Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with powerful winds and rising ocean water that could cause potentially deadly flooding.

WATCH: Florida governor ‘encouraged’ by changes to Hurricane Dorian, but advises caution

In the Bahamas, tourists were sent to government shelters in schools, churches and other buildings offering protection from the storm while residents were evacuating.

“My home is all battened up, and I’m preparing right now to leave in a couple of minutes. … 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. It’s for the best interests of the people.”

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

READ MORE:
Central Florida city breathes sigh of relief after Dorian takes a turn

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis warned that Dorian is a “dangerous storm,” saying that people “who do not evacuate are placing themselves in extreme danger and can expect a catastrophic consequence.”

Government spokesman Kevin Harris told The Associated Press that the hurricane was expected to affect some 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes. He said authorities had closed airports in The Abaco Islands, Grand Bahama and Bimini, but Lynden Pindling International Airport in the capital of Nassau would remain open.

Small skiffs rented by authorities ran back and forth between outlying fishing communities and McLean’s Town, a settlement of a few dozen homes on the eastern end of Grand Bahama island, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) from Florida’s Atlantic coast.

READ MORE:
Bahamas urges hundreds to evacuate as hurricane Dorian approaches

Most were coming from Sweeting Cay, a fishing town of a few hundred people that is about 5 feet (1.5 metres) above sea level and was expected to be left completely underwater.

A few fishermen planned to stay, which could put them in extreme danger. “Hoping for the best, that the storm passes and everybody is safe until we return home,” fisherman Tyrone Mitchell said.

WATCH: Hurricane warnings in Georgia, the Carolinas

Jeffrey Allen, who lives in Freeport on Grand Bahama, said he has learned after several storms that sometimes predictions don’t materialize, but it’s wise to take 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.

The storm-prone Bahamas archipelago on average takes a direct hit from a hurricane every four years, officials say.

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. Poorer communities typically have wooden homes and are generally lower-lying, placing them at tremendous risk.

WATCH: Florida governor says he expects Bahamas will get ‘leveled’ by Hurricane Dorian

After walloping the northern Bahamas, Dorian was expected to dance up the U.S. Southeast coast, staying just off the shores of Florida and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday before skirting South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday.

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

The National Hurricane Center in Miami stressed that Dorian could still hit Florida, where millions of people have been in the storm’s changing potential path. But after days of predictions that put the state in the centre of expected landfalls, the hurricane’s projected turn northeast was significant.

WATCH: Hurricane Dorian’s trajectory shifts, still expected to be powerful for Miami

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

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

WATCH: Florida residents remain nervous about where Dorian will land

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents along the state’s 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.

“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.”

He said he spoke with Trump, who pledged any help Florida needs.

WATCH: ‘One of the biggest hurricanes we’ve seen in a long time’: Trump on Dorian

Some counties in Florida told residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying areas to be ready to flee in the coming days.

The storm upended some Labor Day weekend plans: Major airlines allowed travellers to change their reservations without fees, big cruise lines began rerouting their ships and Cumberland Island National Seashore off Georgia closed to visitors. Disney World and Orlando’s other resorts held off announcing any closings.

WATCH: Florida residents remain nervous about where Dorian will land

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.

Late Saturday, Dorian was centred about 125 miles (200 kilometres) east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 310 miles (500 kilometres) east of West Palm Beach as it moved westward at 8 mph (13 kph).

WATCH: Police patrol long lines at Florida gas station as residents prep for Dorian

READ MORE:
Florida residents warned of potential price gouging

A portion of Florida’s east coast was placed under a tropical storm watch Saturday, with winds of 39 to 73 mph (63 to 118 kph) possible within two days.

Some islands in the Bahamas remained under a hurricane warning, with winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or greater expected.

WATCH: International Space Station captures stunning video of Hurricane Dorian

READ MORE:
Former PM Kim Campbell issues apology after ‘rooting’ for hurricane to hit Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

In the Bahamas, canned food and bottled water disappeared quickly from shelves and some people boarded up their homes.

“We ask for God’s guidance and for God to assist us through this,” the prime minister said.

WATCH: Floridians board up windows, others fill up on gas and sandbags in preparation for Dorian

Trump is receiving briefings on Hurricane Dorian from the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Saturday evening that Trump and others in the administration are watching the storm very carefully.

“It’s an extremely dangerous hurricane, and while some are reporting changes in the track, anyone in the path of Hurricane Dorian should listen to state and local and first responders and public safety personnel and heed their warnings,” Pence said.

Pence says FEMA officials are reassessing where to deploy assets as they track the hurricane.

The president gave the impression as he left the White House on Friday that he would spend Saturday at Camp David with experts monitoring what has developed into a powerful Category 4 storm.

He said he would return to Washington on Sunday to attend a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Looking like our great South Carolina could get hit MUCH harder than first thought. Georgia and North Carolina also,” Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. “It’s moving around and very hard to predict except that this is one of the biggest and strongest (and really wide) that we have seen in decades. Be safe!”

WATCH: Bahamas orders evacuations ahead of Hurricane Dorian

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said earlier that Trump traveled with a FEMA official and that he’s being briefed “every hour.”

-With files from Global News and Darlene Superville, The Associated Press

© 2019 The Canadian Press

You May Also Like

Top Stories