As morning broke in the Bahamas on Monday, residents who rode out Hurricane Dorian described buzz-saw-like winds that splintered homes, flooded streets and left them terrified for their lives.
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Meanwhile, U.S. officials braced for a similar fate as the monster storm’s eye wall set its sight on the coast of Florida.
“There’s houses that are torn apart. There’s tree limbs in the road. There’s no green shrubbery left. It’s just shredded. It looks like a bomb went out,” Bruce Sawyer, a resident of the Bahamas’ hard-hit Abaco Islands told ABC’s “Good Morning America” after enduring a night of abject uncertainty and fear.
Dorian, now a massive Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph, is continuing to pummel the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean.
It made landfall Sunday afternoon at Elbow Cay of the Abaco Islands as the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record, and witnesses like Sawyer, who have chosen to shelter in place for other major hurricanes, said they’ve never seen anything like it.
“I think when the eye wall hit, we had 200-plus mile per hour winds that ripped everybody’s roofs and destroyed everybody’s structure and houses,” Sawyer told ABC News. “Probably one of the most terrifying things that ever happened. The windows were caving. The doors were caving in. I honestly thought that our roof was going to be ripped off as well.”
ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore said he and his news crew hunkered down in a hotel in the Abaco Islands and that by Monday morning, the hotel appeared to be the only structure still standing in the immediate area.
Moore told ABC chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on “GMA” that he could hear people screaming through the night as the hurricane pounded the area.
Kim Mullins, a resident of Grand Bahama Island, told “GMA” she lived through Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Frances and Jeanne in 2004, Hurricane Wilma in 2005, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. But she said she realizes Hurricane Dorian is the most menacing beast yet.
“One hundred eighty-five miles per hour winds, that is something that I cannot prepare for, and that’s something I don’t know what to expect,” Mullins said Monday morning. “The winds, they sound crazy. It literally feels as though something is about to happen even though my house is secure. It’s something I’m actually afraid of. I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid before like this.”
Dorian made landfall three times in the Bahamas on Sunday and didn’t appear to be losing steam as it spun around the Caribbean generating 165 mph winds Monday morning. The storm was about 100 miles off the coast of Florida and appeared to be charting a northerly and unpredictable course that had Peter Gaynor, acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency pleading for South Florida residents to heed evacuations alerts.
According to the current path of Hurricane Dorian, it looks like the closest passage to Florida will be near Cape Canaveral by Tuesday night into Wednesday morning with forecast sustained winds of 125 mph, which would make it a Category 3 hurricane.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a mid-morning news conference Monday that Dorian is about 100 miles east of West Palm Beach and is creeping toward the Florida coast at 1 mph.
“Our east coast is certainly within the cone still and people need to remain vigilant,” DeSantis said.
He said mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders have now been issued for coastal communities from Palm Beach County to Nassau County near the Georgia border, a distance of 361 miles.
“Get out now while you have time, while there’s fuel available and you’ll be safe on the roads,” said DeSantis.
He said 72 nursing homes and assisted living centers along the coast have been evacuated and some Florida hospitals were following suit.
Fort Lauderdale International Airport, Palm Beach International, Daytona Beach International, Jacksonville International and Orlando Melbourne International were all planning to shut down by noon on Monday.
Regardless of landfall, wind gusts of up to 80 mph and storm surge will be the biggest threats for the eastern coast of Florida over the next few days.
As Dorian makes its northward turn Monday into Tuesday, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina should remain on high alert. Although the official National Hurricane Center track keeps the center of Dorian right off the coast as of now, the impacts will still be felt with waves of 15 feet expected close to shore and 35 feet further out.
Gaynor said his greatest concern was storm surge.
“It’s water flooding that causes the most death in natural disasters; 90% of all deaths from natural disasters are caused from flooding, storm surge, inland flooding,” Gaynor said. “What we really want to get across this morning is that time is running out to make preparations.
“If you’re in South Florida or West Palm Beach, you’re feeling winds right now,” he said. “You need to take precautions because, again, the unpredictability, the uncertainty of where Dorian will go is something we are all anxious to find out, but you have to be prepared for any scenario today.”
ABC News’ Kelly McCarthy and Katie Kindelan contributed to this report.