Weather forecasters say Hurricane Dorian's winds have decreased slightly, now a powerful Category 4 storm.
The storm hovered over the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with a fearsome assault - then a Category 5 - that shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passes.
The storm’s top sustained winds fell slightly to 165 mph and its westward movement slowed almost to a standstill. The system crawled along Grand Bahama Island at just 1 mph.
“We need you to bunker down,” Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, warned people. “It’s going to be another 10-12 hours that we’re going to be bombarded with this.”
Thompson and other officials said they were getting distress calls about rising floodwaters but said rescuers could not go out in the violent weather.
“They are ready to get into those areas as soon as the weather subsides,” he said.
On Sunday, Dorian churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and unleashed heavy flooding as people called radio stations and sent desperate messages on social media to find loved ones.
“We received catastrophic damage here in Abaco,” Parliament member Darren Henfield told reporters. He said officials did not have information yet on what happened in nearby cays. “We are in search and recovery mode. ... Continue to pray for us.”
Information began emerging from other affected islands, with Bahamas Power and Light spokesman Quincy Parker telling ZNS radio station that there was a total blackout in New Providence, the archipelago’s most populous island. He also said the company’s office in Abaco island was flattened by the storm.
“The reports out of Abaco as everyone knows,” Parker said as he paused for a deep sigh, “were not good.”
Meanwhile, Don Cornish, island administrator for Grand Bahama Island, told The Associated Press that officials received many calls from people in distress about flooded homes.
Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. But many people were expected to be left homeless.
“It’s devastating,” Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, said Sunday afternoon. “There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported.”
On Sunday, Dorian’s maximum sustained winds reached 185 mph with gusts up to 220 mph tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall. That equaled the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190 mph (305 kph) winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.