News & Blogs
Hurricane Dorian Ravaged the Bahamas and Struck the Southeastern U.S. Coast Before Heading to Atlantic Canada (RECAP)
Published: September 8, 2019
Hurricane Dorian caused catastrophic destruction in the Bahamas and then struck the southeastern U.S. coast and Atlantic Canada during the two weeks it tracked through the Atlantic.
On Aug. 23, 2019, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) first highlighted the incipient tropical wave that would become Dorian when it was about 1,400 miles east of the Windward Islands.
It became a tropical depression, then a tropical storm the following day (Aug. 24).
Tenaciously fighting off dry air, Dorian held together as it swept through the Windward Islands on Aug. 26-27, 2019, dumping flooding rain in Martinique.
After moving over St. Lucia, the center of Dorian reformed farther north, something not uncommon in weaker tropical storms and depressions moving over mountainous terrain fighting dry air.
This northward-reforming center eventually became better organized and intensified to a hurricane as it tracked through the Virgin Islands on Aug. 28, 2019. An elevated weather station on Buck Island, just south of St. Thomas, reported a sustained wind of 82 mph and a gust to 111 mph.
Dorian then intensified to a Category 4 hurricane by Aug. 30, 2019, when hurricane warnings were first issued in the northwestern Bahamas.
The increasingly formidable hurricane generated frequent lightning, as seen both from the GOES-East satellite and from a Hurricane Hunter mission overnight on Aug. 31, 2019.
Dorian was upgraded to Category 5 status on Sept. 1, 2019, and became the first hurricane of that intensity to make landfall on Grand Bahama Island, after first making a pair of landfalls in the Abacos Islands of the northwestern Bahamas earlier in the day.
Maximum sustained winds topped out at 185 mph, tying the second-highest sustained wind speed among all Atlantic hurricanes. Dorian also tied the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys as the strongest landfalling hurricane in the Atlantic Basin.
Dorian stalled and pounded Grand Bahama Island for nearly two days before finally beginning a northward crawl on Sept. 3, 2019.
Florida was spared from the worst of Dorian's impacts, but eastern parts of the peninsula were still lashed with strong wind gusts, heavy rain and beach erosion through Sept. 4, 2019.
Dorian then battered the coasts of North and South Carolina Sept. 5-6, 2019, knocking out power, downing trees, spawning tornadoes and inundating some areas with storm-surge flooding. Dorian's only U.S. landfall occurred at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on the morning of Sept. 6, 2019.
After exiting eastern North Carolina, Dorian raced northward off the Eastern Seaboard and made landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada, on Sept. 7, 2019. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland saw damaging winds, pounding surf and heavy rain as Dorian transitioned into a post-tropical cyclone.
Dorian's Catastrophic Bahamas Strike
Dorian made landfall in the northwestern Bahamas as a Category 5 with 185-mph winds on Sept. 1, 2019. The Abacos Islands and Grand Bahama Island experienced devastating storm-surge flooding and catastrophic wind damage.
According to Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, while over the northwestern Bahamas, Dorian was the slowest-moving major hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) on record in the Atlantic Basin, crawling at just 1 to 2 mph averaged over a 24-hour period.
Dorian's eyewall finally moved away from Grand Bahama Island on the afternoon of Sept. 3, 2019, after pummeling the island for 41 straight hours.
In total, Dorian's intense hurricane eyewall lashed the northwestern Bahamas for an astonishing 51 straight hours since first beginning its siege on the Abacos Islands on the morning of Sept. 1, 2019.
Dozens of people were killed by Dorian in the northwestern Bahamas, and it will take years for the area to recover.
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Dorian's United States Impacts
Sustained tropical-storm-force winds (39-plus mph) arrived at Juno Beach, Florida, on Labor Day and continued along parts of the northeastern Florida coast through Sept. 4, 2019, with gusts topping 60 mph at times.
While Dorian's most intense winds largely missed the Florida coast, there were destructive coastal impacts.
Major beach erosion occurred at Flagler Beach, according to the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore documented damage to homes on Hutchinson Island due to pounding surf.
Water levels were 3 inches over the seawall at Palm Coast.
Wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph were clocked in the Charleston, South Carolina, metro on Sept. 5, 2019, and also in Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There were a number of reports of trees and wires downed in the Charleston metro area, including a tree toppled onto a home in the West Ashley neighborhood of Charleston, injuring one.
There were also reports of trees down in parts of central South Carolina, along interstates 95 and 26.
The combination of rainfall flooding plus flooding from storm surge prompted the closing of dozens of streets in Charleston, South Carolina, according to local emergency management.
Surge flooding was much lower than forecast in Charleston, due to winds still blowing offshore as the center of Dorian remained just far enough to the east and offshore of the city.
Several damaging tornadoes struck northeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina on Sept. 5, 2019.
A waterspout moved ashore in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, damaging homes in an RV Park.
Homes were damaged by an EF2 tornado near Carolina Shores, North Carolina.
After midnight on Sept. 6, 2019, multiple stretches of Interstate 40 were reported flooded near the Sampson-Duplin County line north of Turkey, North Carolina. Fifteen roads were closed in Sampson County due to flooding, and one section of a road was reported washed out near Clinton.
Dorian made landfall over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, at 8:35 a.m. EDT on Sept. 6, 2019, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and a central pressure of 956 millibars.
The backside of Dorian brought a storm surge from Pamlico Sound to North Carolina's Outer Banks, resulting in a rapid rise in water levels at Ocracoke and Hatteras. A flash flood emergency was issued by the National Weather Service for Hyde and Dare counties.
The water level reached 6.37 feet at Ocracoke on Sept. 6, 2019, and Hatteras saw its second-highest water level on record, 5.32 feet.
A sustained wind of 83 mph with a gust to 98 mph was reported on Sept. 6, 2019, at Avon Sound, North Carolina, according to the NHC.
Cape Lookout, North Carolina, reported one-minute sustained winds of 81 mph, with a gust to 94 mph, according to the NHC.
Sustained winds of 83 mph with a gust of 98 mph was reported at Jannette Pier, North Carolina.
Tropical storm conditions were reported in southeastern Massachusetts early Sept. 7, 2019. Sustained winds of 64 mph with a gust to 80 mph were reported from a buoy near Nantucket. Wind gusts of 63 mph were measured in Provincetown and up to 60 mph in Wellfleet.
Trees and power lines were downed in several locations across Cape Cod.
Peak Wind Gusts
-110 mph: Cedar Island Ferry Terminal, North Carolina
-101 mph: Buxton, North Carolina
-98 mph: Near Centenary, South Carolina
-94 mph: Cape Lookout, North Carolina
-92 mph: Near Fripp Island, South Carolina
-88 mph: Winyah Bay, South Carolina with a sustained wind of 77 mph
-85 mph: Ft. Macon near Atlantic Beach, North Carolina
-83 mph: Chesapeake Light Tower, Virginia
-76 mph: Nantucket Shoals Buoy
-75 mph: Shutes Folly in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina
-72 mph: Ft. Sumter, South Carolina
-69 mph: New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina (International Airport)
-67 mph: Hilton Head, South Carolina
-64 mph: Norfolk, Virginia
-60 mph: Tybee Island, Georgia
Peak Rainfall Totals
-15.21 inches: Near Pawleys Island, South Carolina
-12.77 inches: Near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
-13.10 inches: Near Wilmington, North Carolina
-11.86 inches: Conway, South Carolina
-10.96 inches: Lumber River
-10.64 inches: Near McClellanville, South Carolina
-10.25 inches: Castle Hayne, North Carolina
-5.68 inches: Near Palm Coast, Florida
-5.54 inches: Charleston, South Carolina
Dorian's Canada Impacts
Dorian made landfall in Sambro Creek, Canada, at 6:15 p.m. AST on Sept. 7, 2019. The eye of Dorian reached Halifax a short time later, and winds calmed across the city and water receded temporarily.
Osbourne Head, Nova Scotia, reported sustained winds of 68 mph and a wind gust of 88 mph. Wind gusts over 70 mph were measured in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
The winds downed trees and power lines and caused a crane to collapse in Halifax.
A total of 380,000 customers lost power in Nova Scotia, according to the Associated Press.
Storm surge and high seas also battered the Canadian coast.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.