Wednesday 18 September 2019

East coast of US shelters as Dorian continues to wreak havoc

Waves crash ashore near a Hampton police officer's vehicle at Fort Monroe. Photo: Jonathon Gruenke/The Virginian-Pilot via AP
Waves crash ashore near a Hampton police officer's vehicle at Fort Monroe. Photo: Jonathon Gruenke/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

Jason Samenow

Along its punishing path over the last 13 days, Hurricane Dorian bashed the US Virgin Islands, bombarded the northern Bahamas, grazed Florida and scraped the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

It's now set to bruise the coasts of the mid-Atlantic and extreme south-east New England in its penultimate act before jetting off to the Canadian Maritimes.

"Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are expected to continue along portions of the North Carolina coast, portions of south-east Virginia and the southern Chesapeake Bay," the National Hurricane Centre reported yesterday. "Flash flooding is occurring, and will continue to become more widespread across the eastern Carolinas and far south-east Virginia this morning."

By last night and this morning the accelerating storm will blow by extreme eastern Massachusetts, including Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and parts of Cape Cod, unleashing several hours of wind-swept rain and high seas.

Once Dorian exits, it will be most remembered for its catastrophic 40-hour siege over the north-western Bahamas.

It took more mercy on the United States, even as it produced upward of 10 inches of rain, areas of coastal and inland flooding, tornadoes, and wind gusts up to 130kmh from Florida coast to the Carolinas.

Yesterday marked Dorian's 13th day as a named storm and ninth as a hurricane. Fewer than 10pc of hurricanes in recorded history have lasted this long.

Dorian has maximum sustained winds of 140kmh, with higher gusts, making it a high-end Category 1 storm.

It is forecast to slowly weaken as it interacts with land, passes over cooler water, and is exposed to wind shear (winds moving with different speeds or direction with height). But it is predicted to remain at Category 1 levels into this afternoon before transitioning into a "powerful hurricane-force" post-tropical storm over the Canadian Maritimes, according to the Hurricane Centre.

Dorian's winds extend outward up to 72km from the centre, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 354km.

Yesterday morning, radar showed the storm's powerful feeder bands sweeping inland from Wilmington, North Carolina, north to Ocean City, Maryland. Winds were sustained at 80-110kmh with gusts up to around to 153kmh.

About 200,000 customers were without power in North Carolina and 160,000 in South Carolina.

Several flash flooding warnings were in effect in eastern North Carolina. The National Weather Service predicted rainfall rates of up two inches per hour in both eastern North Carolina and south-east Virginia. Wilmington, North Carolina, where the rain is ending, received nearly 10 inches.

The worst of the conditions in the North Carolina Outer Banks, under a hurricane warning, should ease by noon.

A tropical storm warning is in effect from the North Carolina-Virginia border to Chincoteague, and for the Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point southward, where the storm surge was predicted to raise water levels more than a metre above normally dry land around high tide yesterday.

"There will be SIGNIFICANT flood from Storm Surge," the National Weather Service tweeted. In a separate briefing, it warned the surge could flood "numerous roads and buildings, resulting in a significant threat to life and property".

While Dorian could bring tropical-storm conditions to the tidal Potomac south of Cobb Island, it was not forecast to send a surge riding up the Potomac River toward the capital, Washington.

The storm was expected to remain at hurricane strength last night as it raced north-eastward. Tropical storm warnings were raised as far north as New England, including parts of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, even though its centre is expected to stay about 250km offshore. (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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