When we produced today's program, scientists weren't sure when or if Hurricane Dorian would make landfall in the mainland United States. Monday night the National Weather Service said it was an extremely dangerous category-4 storm with wind speeds of 145 miles per hour. It had weakened somewhat from when it hit the Bahamas on Sunday. At that time it was a category-5 system, the strongest classification with wind speeds of 180 miles per hour.
The independent island chain has seen a lot of hurricanes since record-keeping began in the 1800s. But this is the first Category 5 storm known to strike the Bahamas. And it was still battering them last night. That's one of the characteristics that make Hurricane Dorian unique. It's been very slow-moving. As its eye, the center of the storm, passed over Grand Bahama Monday, Hurricane Dorian was moving at 1 mile per hour. You move at three miles per hour when you're walking. So this means the storm spends more time blasting buildings with its destructive winds and soaking land with its drenching rain.
Forecasters said 24 to 30 inches of rain was possible in some parts of the Bahamas. And that's in addition to flooding from the storm surge — the rise in sea water pushed ashore by hurricane winds. The damage was expected to be catastrophic. Another unusual thing about Dorian is that it's been hard to track. Last week meteorologists around the world expected the storm to meander west through the Atlantic and across the U.S. state of Florida. As of last night, their models predicted it would turn north, staying about 50 miles off Florida's east coast but not actually making landfall. A CNN meteorologist says this will still bring hurricane force winds, storm surge and heavy rain to the state. While its future is a mystery, Hurricane Dorian's path has been deadly.