Its passage killed five people and damaged some 13,000 homes. The storm is expected to approach the east coast of Florida between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
Five dead, at least 13,000 homes devastated: a provisional assessment of the passage of Hurricane Dorian was provided by the Bahamas Caribbean Archipelago authorities on Monday, 2 September, and by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis referred to a “historical tragedy”. “Our mission and objective is now search, rescue and reconstruction,” he said. It promises to be long and difficult.
The hurricane passed almost in slow motion overnight from Sunday to Monday over the Abacos Islands before parking on Monday about 40 km north of Grand Bahama. This slowness has exacerbated the devastating effects of its very strong winds and accompanying torrential rains, although Dorian was downgraded Monday to category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale and then to category 3 on Tuesday morning.
“Initial reports from Abaco indicate that the damage is considerable and unprecedented,” said Mr. Minnis. They are deeply worrying. The images and videos we see are heartbreaking. “Michael Scott, the manager of a hotel complex in Grand Bahama quoted by the New York Times on Monday, spoke of “apocalyptic” conditions. The Bahamas’ Minister of Agriculture, Michael Pintard, who lives on the island, managed to show a film taken inside his flooded house, beaten by waves of muddy water.
Dorian’s unusual journey prevented the sending of help on Monday. “This will delay any possibility of accessing these two islands and collecting specific information on the level of impact,” said Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency in charge of operations, who said on Monday that they would not be able to start until Wednesday. Most of the population on these two islands had been evacuated before the hurricane arrived, or gathered in shelters.
The extent of the damage outlined in the first report is all the more impressive given that the Bahamas has adopted binding building standards for almost 20 years, including wind resistance of more than 200 km/h for new buildings. These standards are quite similar to those in effect in South Florida, which is subject to the same climatic hazards. The archipelago is undoubtedly one of the best equipped in the Caribbean to cope with such intense weather phenomena.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the storm was expected to approach the east coast of Florida between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. It could then travel along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Wednesday evening and Thursday, as far as North Carolina. Without delay, these states ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people residing in coastal areas that could be swept away by Dorian. The centre pointed out that the downgrading of the hurricane did not change its dangerousness.
“There’s no time to lose”
Former Florida Governor Rick Scott, now a senator, has repeatedly warned his constituents on his Twitter account. “There is no time to waste. Remember that we can rebuild your house but we can’t do the same with your life,” he wrote, adding: “Tonight is your last chance to leave and gather food before conditions become too dangerous. »
Dorian, then classified in category 1, had crossed Puerto Rico on August 28 without causing any damage to this territory, which was ravaged in September 2017 by Maria, a category 5 hurricane. It then continued to gain in force. Rapid intensification is one of the effects of climate change on hurricanes. It occurs when the hurricane’s wind speed increases by 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) or more over a twenty-four hour period.
The percentage of tropical phenomena that have intensified rapidly in the Atlantic Ocean has tripled over the past three decades, according to a study published in February in Nature Communications. Rapidly strengthening storms are often the most difficult to predict and are also more likely to become major hurricanes.
265 billion dollars in damages
By 2017, the North Atlantic hurricane season, which begins in June, had recorded 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes and in particular 6 major ones – well above the average of 12.1 named storms, 6.4 hurricanes and 2.7 major hurricanes for the period 1981-2010. The three major cyclones – Harvey, Irma and Maria – had caused $265 billion in damage in the United States, contributing to the most costly year in terms of climate and weather disasters for the country. Last year, the season was also very busy, with 15 hurricanes including 6 hurricanes (including Michael and Florence).
With winds approaching 300 km/h, Dorian equalled a 1935 record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to make landfall. The only even more intense hurricane was Allen in 1980, with winds of 305 km/h, but it did not make landfall at that speed.
Dorian is the second hurricane of the season after Barry, who hit the United States in mid-July. The latter was then classified in category 1 and crashed into the Louisiana coast without causing major damage, before being downgraded to a tropical storm.