Historic, Catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Dorian Pounds Bahamas With 185 mph Winds

Above: Visible satellite image of Dorian at 12:30 pm EDT September 1, 2019. At the time, Dorian was making landfall on Elbow Cay in The Bahamas with 185 mph winds, tying Dorian with the Great 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys as the strongest landfalling Atlantic hurricane on record. Image credit: NOAA/RAMMB.

Catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Elbow Cay in The Bahamas at 12:40 pm EDT Sunday with 185 mph winds, gusting to 220 mph, making it the strongest landfalling Atlantic hurricane on record. In the 8-hour period ending at 12:45 pm EDT Sunday, Dorian put on a rare show of rapid intensification—its already-formidable 150 mph winds increased to 185 mph, and the central pressure dropped from 934 to 911 mb.

Dorian’s forward speed of 8 mph this morning is expected to slow to just 4 mph tonight, causing an unprecedented long-duration battering of The Bahamas by one of the most extreme hurricanes in history. On Great Abaco and Little Abaco islands, hurricane-force winds will likely blow for 12 – 15 consecutive hours, interrupted only by the passage of the calm eye. For several hours, Category 5 winds in excess of 160 mph are likely, which will be capable of destroying all but the most rigorously designed concrete steel-reinforced structures. Dorian may wobble enough to the northwest to prevent Grand Bahama Island from receiving such a long pounding, but that island is still likely to experience extreme damage.

Figure 1. Composite radar image of Dorian at 10 am EDT September 1, 2019. Image credit: bahamasweather.org.bs.

Dorian is now tied for having the second-highest winds of any Atlantic hurricanes on record:

1. 190 mph (Allen 1980)
2. 185 mph (Dorian 2019, Labor Day 1935, Gilbert 1988, Wilma 2005)
3. 180 mph (Mitch 1998, Rita 2005, Irma 2017)
4. 175 mph (11 storms, including Maria 2017, Katrina 2005, Andrew 1992, Camille 1969)

Dorian is tied for strongest landfalling Atlantic hurricane on record:

1. 185 mph: Dorian 2019 (Bahamas), Labor Day 1935 (Florida Keys)
2. 180 mph: Irma 2017 (Barbuda, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands)
3. 175 mph: Camille 1969 (Mississippi), Janet 1955 (Mexico), Dean 2007 (Mexico), David 1979 (Dominican Republic), Anita 1977 (Mexico)

Dorian’s lowest central pressure value of 911 mb at of 12:45 pm EDT Sunday does not yet make the top ten list of strongest Atlantic hurricanes by pressure; to make that list, Dorian would have to match the 908 mb pressure of Hurricane Maria (2017).

Dorian is the fifth Cat 5 in the Atlantic since 2016, joining Michael (2018), Irma (2017), Maria (2017), and Matthew (2016). This makes 2019 the fourth year in a row the Atlantic basin has had at least one hurricane reach Cat 5 strength, beating the previous record, a three-year stretch from 2003 to 2005. Including Dorian, there have been 35 Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Dorian is the second Cat 5 globally this year, joining Super Typhoon Wutip from February in the Northwest Pacific.

Observations hard to come by

There were three personal weather stations (PWSs) in the WU network that were reporting data from Great Abaco Island this morning; all of them ceased sending data by 10 am EDT.  The only one with wind data reported wind gusts of 65 mph before going silent at 9:39 am EDT. The only official weather station in the path of the eye of Dorian is at Settlement Point on the extreme western end of Grand Bahama Island—the most northwesterly point in the islands. At 4 pm EDT Sunday, Settlement Point reported sustained winds of 32 mph, gusting to 37 mph, with a pressure of 1006 mb. A webcam on Grand Bahama Island was showing images of the approaching hurricane on Sunday afternoon.

Storm Chaser Josh Morgerman of icyclone.com is in Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island, and reported via Twitter at 11:15 am Sunday: “978 mb & falling fast. Just outside eyewall, but winds damaging. Holed up with six others in concrete room with chairs against the door.” At 11:40 am, he reported: “Pounding. CRASHING. Boards prying off windows. We’re moving children to a safe space, wrapping them in blankets. 969 mb.”

Evacuations begin in Florida

Eastern portions of Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties in Florida are under a Tropical Storm Warning, meaning that tropical storm winds in excess of 39 mph are expected in the area within 36 hours. Due to this, mandatory evacuations have been ordered for residential structures in Zone A and Zone B in Palm Beach County, effective at 1 pm Sunday, September 1, 2019.  According to the Miami Herald, this includes President Trump’s Mar-a-largo resort.

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SOURCE: Weather Underground, Dr. Jeff Masters

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