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As Dorian Lashes the Carolinas, the Bahamas Grapple With 'Unimaginable' Losses

Hurricanes are becoming more extreme and destructive because of the climate crisis.

 Aerial view of damage after Hurricane Dorian passed through on Sept. 5 in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian hit the island chain as a category 5 storm battering them for two days before moving north. (Photo: Jose Jimenez / Getty Images)

Aerial view of damage after Hurricane Dorian passed through on Sept. 5 in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian hit the island chain as a category 5 storm battering them for two days before moving north. (Photo: Jose Jimenez / Getty Images)

Hurricane Dorian lashed the Carolinas with wind, flooding and tornadoes Thursday, as the storm's death toll in the Bahamas rose to 30, The Washington Post reported.

The storm, downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane Friday morning, was located 25 miles east of Cape Lookout, North Carolina at 5 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. Its eye could touch the Outer Banks of North Carolina Friday morning. But while Dorian knocked out power for nearly 200,000 people in South Carolina, as well as 9,000 in North Carolina and 7,000 in Georgia, as The New York Times reported, overall its impacts on the Eastern U.S. have not been as devastating as feared.

"This is not going to be one of those storms that goes down in our history or in our record books," Thomas Bell, the spokesman for the emergency management agency in Horry County, South Carolina, told The Washington Post. "This was not a disaster or a catastrophe — especially compared to some of the storms we've seen recently, like Florence last year."

The same could not be said for the Bahamas, where officials and residents are still taking stock of the devastation. Officials ordered more body bags, morticians and coolers to the impacted islands as hundreds to thousands of people remain missing.

"The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering," Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said, as CNN reported.

The hurricane may have damaged or destroyed 45 percent of homes on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, BBC News reported. Thirty-five inches of rain caused widespread flooding, and Grand Bahama's only international airport was severely damaged.

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Great Abaco is "virtually uninhabitable," BBC News said. There is no water, power or food on the island. Over all, the UN estimates that around 70,000 people in the Bahamas will need some form of disaster aid, The Guardian reported.

"I have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Only the clothes that I have on my body right now," Great Abaco resident Kathlyn Russell, who was evacuated to Nassau Wednesday, told The Guardian.

Dorian's passage up the Carolina Coast was far less damaging, but still dramatic. Two tornadoes touched down in North Myrtle Beach and Little River, South Carolina and several in North Carolina, The New York Times reported. One, in Carolina Shores, North Carolina, caused property damage, but no injuries.

The storm also flooded streets in Charleston, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. Wilmington International Airport recorded 8.93 inches of rain Thursday. Messages on an electronic street sign in one Wilmington neighborhood alternated between "Be safe!" and "Not even your mom loves you, Dorian!"

Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest storm to ever impact the island chain. Hurricanes are becoming more extreme and destructive because of the climate crisis. BBC Weather's Tomasz Schafernaker explained. Schafernaker gave two reasons:

An increase in sea surface temperatures strengthens the wind speeds within storms and also raises the amount of precipitation a hurricane will dump

Sea levels are expected to increase by one to four feet over the next century, bringing the potential of far worse damage from sea surges and coastal flooding during storms

Olivia Rosane

Olivia Rosane
Olivia Rosane is a freelance reporter for EcoWatch.

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