Americans should “pray for the people in the Bahamas”, Donald Trump said on Sunday, as they were “hit like never before” by Hurricane Dorian, the category 5 storm that made landfall on the northern islands on Sunday with what the president said were “almost 200mph winds”.
As large waves and heavy winds pounded the northern Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said more soberly Dorian was the strongest hurricane to hit the area in modern times, barrelling into the islands with sustained winds of more than 180mph and gusts higher than that.
The NHC said Dorian made a second landfall at 2pm, on Great Abaco Island near Marsh Harbour at 185mph. That was tied for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record, with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.
Bahamian authorities made a last-minute plea for those in low-lying areas to evacuate. The NHC said Dorian was moving west at 7mph, with “catastrophic conditions” in the Abaco Islands and expected across Grand Bahama later in the day.
“It’s going to be really, really bad for the Bahamas,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said, adding: “Abaco is going to get wiped.”
Hundreds hunkered down in schools, churches and other shelters. Power and water outages were reported, as authorities warned that all government workers would remain indoors once winds reached 40mph.