The Atlantic hurricane season, which spans from June 1 to November 30, had been relatively calm this year, with just one major storm in July. That changed at the end of August, when Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, came screaming through, leaving a trail of destruction all the way from the US Virgin Islands to the Bahamas and the US and Canadian east coasts.
Dorian, began as a harmless tropical wave off the coast of Africa on August 18, 2019. About a week later, on the morning of August 24, the US National Hurricane Center classified it as a tropical depression, noting that “gradual development is likely.” Within eight hours, Dorian which was heading toward Puerto Rico, had gained enough strength to be upgraded to a tropical storm. Fortunately for the Puerto Ricans who are still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Dorian changed directions and instead made landfall in the US Virgin Islands on August 28, 2019. With reports of 111 mph winds pouring in, it became clear that Dorian was now officially a hurricane!
After downing several trees and cutting power to over 10,000 people across St. Thomas, Dorian continued to intensify as it headed towards the Bahamas. The coral-based archipelago's 700-plus islands and cays range from uninhabited to packed with tourist resorts. By the time it struck the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas at 5:00 AM local time on September 1, 2019, Dorian had become a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of over 150 mph. Things got progressively worse over the next 10 hours. By 2:00 PM, the National Hurricane Center reported that the “catastrophic hurricane” boasted winds of 185 mph and a storm surge of “as much as 18 to 23 feet above normal tide levels.”
Dorian decimated the Abaco Islands, before moving on to Grand Bahama Island, which lies 87 miles (141 km) away. The eyewall of the hurricane hit the popular tourist destination on the night of September 1. However, instead of passing through in the usual six to eight hours, Dorian stayed for 40 hours, slamming the pristine island with catastrophic wind and rains. Meteorologists say the storm's uncharacteristic lingering was caused by the absence of upper atmospheric winds, which usually push and pull Atlantic hurricanes in different directions and determine their next target.
On September 3, Dorian finally moved on to North and South Carolina on the US east coast, where it unleashed a barrage of tornadoes and caused massive storm surge flooding. The storm, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, then continued northward to Canada, where it knocked out power to half a million people in Nova Scotia and the surrounding regions on September 8. On September 9, the National Hurricane Center gave its final update on Dorian, stating that the weakened storm, now "over the cold waters of the Labrador Sea," would dissipate by September 10.
While Dorian may be gone, the impact on the Bahamas will be felt for many years. A majority of the structures on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama have been destroyed, rendering many residents homeless and without jobs. Though US and British aid workers are trying their best, food, water, and other essentials remain in short supply. Though the official death count is 45, with hundreds still missing, officials warn the numbers could increase dramatically in the coming weeks. The one silver lining in the otherwise grim situation is that tourists, who have been vacationing at the islands for years, are returning to help the locals clean up the mess Dorian left behind. Hopefully, the people of the Bahamas will be able to rapidly recover from the disaster and restore the islands back to their full glory.
Resources: USAtoday.com, Vox.com,latimes.com,cnn.com.