- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Emergency management officials from Florida to the Carolinas late Tuesday were bracing for the arrival of slow-moving Hurricane Dorian after it blasted the Bahamas with “historic” force, destroying more than 10,000 homes and devastating infrastructure across the Caribbean island.

As Dorian inched toward Florida, the National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a Category 2 storm. The storm had lost some fury, but winds remained at least 110 mph and meteorologists warned that it was spreading as wide as 15 miles across.

The hurricane center did not predict where Dorian would make landfall, but forecasters were concerned that the hurricane’s slow pace, heading northwest at roughly 6 mph, was particularly deadly because it could park along Florida’s coast and cause extensive damage via an extended period of torrential rain and wind.

Officials urged residents in the coastal communities of the Carolinas to follow evacuation orders, especially for North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Local meteorologists warned that Dorian’s heavy rains would produce “life-threatening flash floods.”

According to the hurricane center, Dorian has been one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded. It ravaged the Bahamas from Sunday to Tuesday, at times as strong as Category 5 with winds topping 185 mph and a storm surge that caused at least seven deaths, flooding and devastation.

Red Cross officials told The Associated Press that at least 13,000 homes had been severely damaged or destroyed.

Social media depicted scenes of chaos amid raging floodwaters as rescue teams struggled to cope. The Nassau Guardian newspaper ran photos of massive coastal neighborhoods so flooded that the only visible sign of past life was shredded roofs poking up just above the waterline.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called Dorian “a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas.”

His Twitter feed acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. Coast Guard had “already started rescue operations” in the Abaco Islands, which suffered less damage than Grand Bahama Island, where flooding had left the main hospital unusable, the AP reported.

Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized support to the Bahamas as needed.

On Tuesday, Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy told reporters it was too early to tell how U.S. military forces might help but added that the USNS Comfort hospital ship was in waters nearby and could be called in for medical assistance, the AP reported.

Teams from the U.N. World Food Program were also on the islands helping the government assess damage and prioritize needs. Preliminary calculations showed roughly 60,000 people in need of food and drinking water.

The U.S. East Coast was a flurry of activity as coastal residents safeguarded property or tried to evacuate, with Dorian’s wind and rain expected Wednesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed relief that the hurricane’s track had shifted northward before hitting the state, but he warned residents near the coast to follow local emergency officials’ instructions for evacuations.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials turned all lanes of Interstate 16 into an eastbound evacuation route from Savannah on the coast to Dublin, about 100 miles inland. Roughly 540,000 people live in the state’s six coastal counties.

The state DOT said in a news release the route was seeing “light traffic” Tuesday afternoon and cars were “running at the speed limit.”

Meanwhile, South Carolina officials said nearly a quarter-million people have evacuated from that state’s coast, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a mandatory evacuation for the barrier islands beginning Wednesday, in addition to activating more than 300 National Guard members.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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