Hurricane Dorian tore across the Bahamas on Sunday as a historically powerful hurricane, officials said, leaving scenes of devastation in its path.
When the Category 5 hurricane made landfall on Great Abaco Island, east of Miami, on Sunday at 2 p.m., Dorian’s maximum sustained winds were 185 mph — an Atlantic hurricane record matched only by a storm that struck the Florida Keys in 1935, the National Hurricane Center said.
Video posted to Twitter by local newspaper The Tribune, though not independently verified by NBC News, appeared to show widespread destruction on Abaco.
Leigh Lamattina-Davis, a resident of Marsh Harbor, a town of roughly 6,000 on Great Abaco, described the direct hit as “total devastation.”
“I am lucky to have half a house,” she said in a text message with NBC News. “My neighbors are demolished.”
Lamattina-Davis, who’s lived on the island for 25 years, said that power lines were down, car alarms were blaring and people were “wailing.”
“Hopefully a plane will come soon and get us outta here,” she said.
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More video footage from the island seemed to match Lamattina-Davis’ description, showing flipped cars, sparking electrical lines, battered homes and flooded roads.
In one video, a family could be seen praying in a bathroom. In another, an entire neighborhood appears to have been swallowed by water. The footage has not been confirmed by NBC News.
The hurricane center warned people on the island who were making the videos to immediately take shelter.
“Winds will increase rapidly and unpredictably after the eye passes,” the center said.
The Bahamas’ Minister of Tourism, Dionisio D’Aguilar, said that many residents appeared to have underestimated the “catastrophic” damage Dorian could bring.
“Never in the history of the Bahamas have we seen 180 mile per hour winds, and 200 mile an hour gusts,” D’Aguilar said.“We are praying that they can find safe shelter, and they can make it through the storm.”
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It wasn’t clear if there had been injuries or fatalities, but D’Aguilar said it was the government’s top concern. (D’Aguilar is a relative of an author of this article)
“We are very very frightened about potential loss of life,” D’Aguilar said.
The country’s minister of foreign affairs, Darren Henfield, told the state-owned broadcaster ZNS Bahamas that authorities rescued people from damaged buildings during a three-hour lull in the storm.
Most were taken to a government center that was operating as a shelter, he told the broadcaster.
“We’re doing our best,” Henfield said. “We’re calm.”
Forecasters said the storm would continue to “pound” Great Abaco on Sunday before moving toward Grand Bahama overnight and Florida’s east coast late Monday.
Morgan Radford contributed.