Category 2 Hurricane Dorian lashing Florida's East Coast

In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image Hurricane Dorian moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island

Dorian was expected to approach the Florida coast later yesterday, but the threat to the USA state had eased, with the National Hurricane Centre's projected track showing most of the coast just outside the cone of potential landfall.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said this was "one of the greatest national crises in our country's history".

Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas at unprecedented intensity for that island nation, and as the most intense storm on record at landfall in the North Atlantic Ocean Basin.

Glynn County school resource officer Mark Hooper, left, and school support staff member Sheree Armstrong, right, help Elizabeth Scales board a special needs bus at Lanier Plaza as hundreds of local residents evacuate the area under mandatory evacuation ahead of Hurricane Dorian, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, in Brunswick, Ga.

More than 13,000 houses, or about 45 per cent of the homes in Grand Bahama and the hard-hit Abaco Island, are believed to have been severely damaged or destroyed, according to a representative of Red Cross.

"We are getting the periodic outer rain bands that come in and literally smack us with strong, gusty, tropical storm force winds". The correspondent said he had spoken to a man whose wife had died of hypothermia after being trapped in their flooded home for hours and others who said they had watched people swept away by the storm surge.

To the south, the Bahamas' most populous island, New Providence, which includes the capital city, Nassau, and has over 250,000 people, and suffered little damage. One radio station said it received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a 5-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a woman with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. At least two storm shelters flooded. Choppy, coffee-colored floodwaters reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. The airport on Grand Bahama was on Tuesday said to be under 6ft (1.8m) of water. "We're definitely in dire straits".

None of this is to say that the storm isn't still risky; Hurrican Dorian has already been lamed for a handful of deaths in the Bahamas and it still has the potential to wreak some serious havoc in the United States.

While it was expected to stay offshore, meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned that "only a small deviation" could draw the storm's risky core toward land.

Across the southeast United States, meanwhile, interstate highways leading away from the beach in SC and Georgia were turned into one-way evacuation routes. Tropical storm watches are in effect for eight counties, as well parts of Florida and SC.

Forecasters have told Floridians to heed mandatory evacuation orders now in effect for at least nine counties.

"We have not seen much resistance at all", he said.

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