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Evacuations begin as Dorian bears down on northern Bahamas

  • Video by WFTS

    Hurricane Dorian continues on its path toward the Bahamas as a dangerous category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said in their 11 p.m. update.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    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. 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.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Georgia Bernard, right, and Ana Perez are among residents filling sandbags to take home in preparation for Hurricane Dorian, in Hallandale Beach, Fla., as the town allowed residents to fill up sandbags until they ran out. All of Florida is under a state of emergency and authorities are urging residents to stockpile a week’s worth of food and supplies as Hurricane Dorian gathers strength and aims to slam the state as soon as Monday as a Category 4 storm.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Workers board up a shop’s window front as they make preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, in Freeport, Bahamas. Forecasters said the hurricane is expected to keep on strengthening and become a Category 3 later in the day.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    People line up to buy water at a store before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, in Freeport, Bahamas. Forecasters said the hurricane is expected to keep on strengthening and become a Category 3 later in the day.

MCLEAN’S TOWN CAY, BAHAMAS >> Hurricane Dorian bore down on the northern Bahamas today 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.

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 meter) 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.

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 kilometers) from Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Most were coming from Sweeting Cay, a fishing town of a few hundred people that is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) 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.

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.

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 today, 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 center of expected landfalls, the hurricane’s projected turn northeast was significant.

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.

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.

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 travelers 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.

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

A portion of Florida’s east coast was placed under a tropical storm watch today, 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.

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

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