Hurricane Dorian pummeled the mid-Atlantic U.S. coast Thursday with drenching rains and powerful winds, while threatening to inundate low-lying coastal lands with surging storm water of two meters or more.
The storm,, currently a Category 2 hurricane, tracked the shoreline near Charleston, South Carolina, packing winds of 175 kilometers an hour, with forecasters saying it could move near or over the North Carolina coast later in the day and into Friday. By the weekend, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm, weakened but still a hurricane, could reach the northeastern U.S. coast and Nova Scotia in Canada.
The hurricane agency said the storm surge in the mid-Atlantic region "will be accompanied by large and destructive waves," with rainfall of as much as 38 centimeters.
The immense storm, which killed at least 20 people in the Bahamas, now has hurricane-force winds extending outward from its eye 95 kilometers and tropical force winds outward 315 kilometers.
Bahamians are facing an overwhelming recovery effort, with many communities on Grand Bahama and Abaco islands flattened and left in rubble.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is pledging to do whatever is necessary to carry out rescue and recovery efforts, calling the storm "one of the greatest national crises in our country's history."
Thursday will likely bring more grim news as people get a better look at what the storm left behind after spinning over Grand Bahama and Abaco islands for nearly two days with flooding rains and storm surge, as well as winds of up to 300 kilometers per hour.
Minnis said at a Wednesday news conference that officials expect the death toll will increase as rescue teams sift through the debris. Entire villages are gone and beaches usually packed with tourists are instead covered with parts of buildings, destroyed cars, and the remains of people's lives.
"As prime minister, I assure you that no efforts will be spared in rescuing those still in danger, feeding those who are hungry and providing shelter to those who are without homes," he said. "Our response will be day and night, day after day, week after week, month after month until the lives of our people return to some degree of normalcy."
Bahamian lawmaker Iram Lewis said, "Right now there are just a lot of unknowns," adding, "We need help."
U.S. President Donald Trump has sent the Coast Guard and urban search and rescue teams to help. The British Royal Navy, Red Cross, and United Nations are also rushing in food, medicine, and any kind of aid that may be needed.
The White House said Trump spoke to Minnis Wednesday, assuring him the United States will provide "all appropriate support," and sent American condolences to the Bahamian people for the destruction and loss of life.
U.N. Humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock was in Nassau Wednesday meeting with Minnis. Lowcock says 20% of the Bahamian population has been affected and 70,000 people need food.
"Nothing of this sort has been experienced by the Bahamas before," Lowcock said, adding that he is immediately releasing $1 million from the U.N. central emergency fund for water, food, shelter, and medical services.