An eerie quiet
I’m in Savannah, Georgia, the Guardian’s Oliver Laughland writes this morning.
The historic and famously beautiful city hugs the coastline, just over 100 miles from the Florida border.
Savannah, along with a group of other Georgian coastal counties, was placed under an evacuation order yesterday by governor Brian Kemp.
It was eerily quiet here last night. The city’s downtown area was mostly deserted, save one last dive bar holding a heavy metal concert for a local band that attracted an audience of about 4 people, including me.
Tropical storm conditions are expected here within the next 36 hours and a storm surge warning is in effect from here to the Florida border.
Despite this, most locals I’ve spoken to seem pretty non-fussed about Dorian. A number of people have told me they don’t plan to evacuate today, as the projections this morning indicate Dorian staying further out to sea.
I’ll be taking a seven hour drive down to Miami today, where the Guardian is hoping to get out to the Bahamas tomorrow. I’ll send you updates of what I see along the coastal drive on the way.
National Hurricane Center update
NHC 10AM EDT tropical cyclone update.
At least five people have been confirmed killed in the Bahamas so far and 21 injured people were airlifted to the Bahamian capital, Nassau, by the US Coast Guard, Bahamas officials said.
“We are in the midst of an historic tragedy,” prime minister Hubert Minnis said yesterday. “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”
Hurricane Dorian crawls away from Bahamas
The tempest is now 45 miles north-north-east of Freeport, Bahamas, 105 miles east-north-east of Palm Beach, Florida, with sustained wind speeds now of 115mph.
That means that wind speeds have almost halved since it was a category 5 blowing in excess of 200mph, with wind gusts over 225mph, at the weekend.
Dorian is still a category 3 hurricane and the US National Hurricane Center has predicted it will stay at hurricane strength all week, albeit that it’s weakening steadily now as it heads towards the US.
US rallying for the Bahamas
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio says the US is ready to provide aid and assistance to the Bahamas. The island archipelago nation is in dire straits after Hurricane Dorian sat at a category 5 with winds at 200mph and above sat over it over the long weekend.
It’s barely shifting away from there now, but is very slowly on the move and the full extent of the death and destruction it has left behind is yet to be revealed to the outside world. So far we have just had awful glimpses of the situation, as ordinary people on social media and Bahamian government figures have put out small updates.
United Nations prepping relief for Bahamas
UN agencies said on Tuesday that they had emergency medical and food aid ready to help the people of the Bahamas after the devastating passage of hurricane Dorian through the island chain.
They estimate that at least 61,000 people will need food aid after the monster storm hit the islands, officials told reporters in Geneva, the South African-based news letter The Citizen reports.
The islands’ water system is damaged and fresh water will be a priority, the UN Office for coordination of humanitarian affairs reported.
UN experts are waiting for government clearance before assessing the situation on the ground, said OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke.
The OCHA statement said the authorities on Abaco island were talking of “catastrophic damage”, while emergency officials on Grand Bahama were reporting massive flooding there.
Herve Verhoosel for the World Food Program said their initial estimate suggested that 47,000 people would need food aid on Grand Bahama and another 14,000 on Abaco.
Emergency medical teams were also standing by to intervene, said Fadela Chaib, spokesperson for the World Health Organization.
The Freedom International Airport in the Bahamas is under water.
Florida National Guard called out
As soon as forecasters tracking Hurricane Dorian projected Palm Beach County and neighboring areas could be hit hard, the Florida Army National Guard was mobilized.
Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Moore left behind his wife and one month old baby, and drove down from Saint Augustine to join the command of the 254 Transportation Battalion, as the state waited to see what impact the storm will have there, Guardian contributor Maria Bakkalapulo reports.
“We transport – whether it be personnel or commodities in support of the relief effort, such as food, water, ice, tarps, whatever is needed,” Moore told the Guardian, as he oversaw preparations at the Callaway Armory in West Palm Beach yesterday.
The 160 soldiers in his unit are driving and unloading military trucks and utility vehicles, carrying supplies from the logistics readiness center in Orlando, with another 160 men and women from a sister battalion, the 160th of Crystal River, a field artillery unit.
“You know, the quickest way to move stuff around is with our interstate system. The I-10, I-75, I-95 highways – that’s where the logistical planning comes in,” says Command Sergeant Major Tom Aycock with the 254 Transportation Company.
He has been working with the National Guard on hurricane rescue and relief since the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a Category 5 Hurricane.
“When we get to where the citizens need is and there is nothing more rewarding than be able to help someone out during a time of crisis.”
The chain of command begins in state capital Tallahassee and branches out to liaise with each county emergency center and law enforcement.
Inside the busy facility, a mess hall was set with tables, and cots lined up on the floor for newly arrived Guardsmen catch up on some sleep.
“We have to keep them rested – we never know when they might be called upon to be out for 36 hours or more in the field” said Aycock.
Outside, men and women prepped a huge array of vehicles – tall off-road hauling rigs, humvees, lifts and backhoes, communication cars and fuel trucks, as the hurricane’s first heavy rains start to hammer down from ominous skies.
Some guardsmen are active duty military, while others are civilians, from plumbers to doctors to teachers in their full-time jobs. Plumbers, especially, can come in handy in a hurricane situation, Aycock said.
National Guard are permitted to carry arms on the streets, unlike conventional forces, and Aycock thinks that show of force is welcome reassurance. “Unfortunately, there’s an element that presents itself in some disasters where you need law enforcement.”
Dorian is 110 miles from West Palm Beach
Let’s see if the hurricane picks up speed towards the US, even as its own strength weakens.
West Palm Beach is relatively humble city on the mainland opposite Palm Beach, location of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and gazillionaire mansions, exclusive beach clubs, etc, etc.
Floridians in this area were pretty chill about Dorian at the weekend, as this dispatch for the Guardian showed, and are likely to be relatively relaxed about the hurricane’s closer approach at this time.
Our contributor Maria Bakkalapulo was in Palm Beach and Jupiter, then made her way, with photographer Niall Macaulay, north towards the Space Coast (east of Orlando) and now to Daytona Beach, watching to see what Dorian brings for Florida, especially in the form of storm surge flooding.
Georgia and the Carolinas remain braced for effects, if not direct impact of a landfall, from the storm in the next couple of days.
US State Department advisory
Here’s more contact info on the Bahamas from the State Dept.
Dorian from Space
Here’s a view of the massive cyclone from the Space Station.
Southern eyewall continues to pound Grand Bahama Island
The National Hurricane Center reports, as of 8AM EDT (US east coast time, 1PM BST) that the eye of Dorian is beginning to inch northwestward, towards the US.
A new tropical cyclone is forming in the southwest Gulf of Mexico.
The latest news is that Dorian is actually shifting. Almost imperceptibly perhaps, but the hurricane is on the move, traveling northwest at 1mph.
This news will bring a small sigh of relief for the Bahamas. But as the storm moves away we will begin to hear more details about what has actually happened in the islands and the terrible destruction the tempest has wrought there.
Florida now in its tracks but looks like it will stay far enough from the coast that the state will avoid the worst conditions.
Here’s a latest, very clear map from the Guardian of the path of Dorian over the Bahamas.
Here’s a reminder of a national emergency number in the Bahamas to use to try checking up on anyone who might be cut-off or missing.
It was just posted to Twitter as a reminder from a news outlet in Orlando.
“This hurricane will totally destroy this island”
The Freeport Times in the Bahamas just tweeted an impromptu image of a rain-soaked window looking out onto windswept palms, with an almost despairing message.
“Dorian will really not move away.”
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. Here is the latest:
- Five people are confirmed dead after Dorian stalled over the island of Grand Bahama for a day, staying in roughly the same position for 12 hours
- Bahama’s prime minister, Hubert Minnis, described the hurricane as a “historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas”
- Storm surges of 12 to 18 feet (4-5 meters) above normal hit Grand Bahama Island
- Up to 13,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged
- Dorian was downgraded to a category 3 hurricane early on Tuesday, meaning it still packs winds of 120mph
- Gusts of over 100mph have hit Florida’s east coast and evacuation orders are in place in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia
- More than 1,300 flights have been cancelled in the US as well as to and from the country. Up to 1,000 more are expected to be cancelled on Tuesday