Hurricane Dorian now Category 5 storm, makes landfall in northwest Bahamas

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Hurricane Dorian is now a massive Category 5 hurricane this morning with sustained winds of 185 mph as it makes landfall on Elbow Cay of the Abaco Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Dorian is tied for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record, along with a hurricane on Labor Day in 1935 that struck the Florida Keys and moved up along the gulf coast of Florida.

The eye of the storm made second landfall at 2 p.m. on the island near Marsh Harbour.

"I have never seen anything like this in my life," Jenise Fernandez, reporter with ABC affiliate WPLG, told ABC News in a phone interview from Marsh Harbour. "I have seen utter devastation here in Marsh Harbour. We are surrounded by water with no way out."

The National Hurricane Center is calling the storm a life-threatening situation with extreme destruction and the potential for wind gusts over 200 mph.

The town of Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco island has catastrophic damage, according to an ABC News team on the ground, with boats on rooftops and uprooted trees.

It is the strongest hurricane in modern record for the northwestern Bahamas. As it continues to slowly move west towards the northwestern Bahamas the outer rain bands of Dorian are expected to reach Freeport and Nassau, with more intense rain falling on Great Abaco Island.

But with the slow motion of Dorian, the prolonged duration of hurricane and tropical storm force winds with gusts over 100 mph, storm surges of up to 20 feet and heavy rain of up to 30 inches locally in some areas will have potentially devastating impacts on the northern Bahamas.

Hurricane Dorian’s path continues with the trend that we’ve been seeing over the last day, keeping landfall away from Florida as the steering ridge of high pressure will weaken and allow for Dorian to take that turn to the north. The timing of that turn will be what determines the severity of impacts on Florida’s east coast.

While there are competing models for where the storm could hit, the east coast of Florida still should brace for potential landfall from Dorian.

Even without a landfall, storm surge, heavy rain, and tropical storm force winds will be felt. This is why a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued along the east coast from Deerfield Beach to Sebastian Inlet -- including Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Vero Beach. An additional tropical storm watch has also been issued from Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach.

As Dorian makes its northward turn Monday into Tuesday, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina will be on high alert. Although the official National Hurricane Center (NHC) track keeps the center of Dorian right off the coast as of now, the impacts will still be greatly felt.

We are still looking at Dorian being a Category 1 or 2 storm with winds of 90 to 100 mph just off the coast making when the storm makes its closet approach to South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday into Friday.

There is still high uncertainty in the track 3-5 days out and Dorian still has the potential to make landfall in the southeast states.

The Bahamas should expect storm surges of up to 15-20 feet, rainfall of up to 30 inches, and prolonged hurricane-force winds, large and destructive waves, and wind gusts of over 100 mph.

It is difficult to predict what to expect in the southeastern United but isolated rain of up to 15 inches could be possible with tropical storm force winds and life-threatening surf and rip currents.

What is certain from Hurricane Dorian is is that there will be a prolonged period of life-threatening storm surge, devastating hurricane-force winds, and heavy rains capable of producing life-threatening flash floods on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama through Monday while the hurricane warning remains in effect for these areas.

A tropical storm warning is now in effect for a portion of the Florida east coast. Since Dorian is forecast to slow down and turn northward as it approaches the coast, life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds are still possible along portions of the Florida east coast by the middle part of this week.

Palm Beach County is ordering mandatory evacuations for the areas east of the intracoastal waterway including coastal sections of Jupiter, Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.

There is an increasing risk of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina later this week. Residents in these areas should continue to monitor the progress of Dorian.

Heavy rains, capable of producing life-threatening flash floods are possible over coastal sections of the southeast and lower mid-Atlantic regions of the United States through late this week.

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