Hurricane Dorian, the second-strongest Atlantic storm on record, pounded the Bahamian islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama on Sunday night and was forecast to move dangerously close to Florida in the next two days, U.S. forecasters said.
Hazards for the Abaco Islands included storm surges 18 to 23 feet (5.5 to 7 metres) above normal tide levels, with higher destructive waves, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of eight coastal counties effective at noon on Monday.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ordered evacuations in all or parts of six coastal counties also effective at noon on Monday.
Even a glancing blow from one of the strongest storms ever to menace Florida could bring torrential rains and damaging winds, the NHC said.
“On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands tonight and Monday,” the NHC said. “The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late Monday through Tuesday night.”
Dorian is forecast to remain a hurricane for the next five days. Dorian made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kph) and gusts of more than 220 mph (354 kph).
Dorian was the strongest hurricane on record to hit the northwestern Bahamas as a life-threatening Category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.
It was tied with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, based on maximum sustained winds. Allen in 1980 was the most powerful, with 190 mph (306 kph) winds, the NHC said.