The storm continues to whip the Bahamas with strong winds and rising waters.
Hurricane Dorian, now a Category 3 storm, remained stalled over the Bahamas early Tuesday, pummeling the islands with unrelenting rain and winds as the United States waited to see what destructive path it would take.
The storm, one of the strongest on record in the Atlantic, remained stationary just north of Grand Bahama Island, delivering 120 mile-per-hour winds and ceaseless downpours that have flooded neighborhoods, destroyed homes and killed at least five people. The hurricane was expected to finally move northwest early Tuesday before turning north near Florida’s eastern coast by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
It is highly unusual for a storm of Dorian’s magnitude to halt and hover over land, bringing what officials fear could be catastrophic damage to the Caribbean islands. It crawled along at just one mile an hour on Monday before all but standing still, moving just 14 miles from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas,” Prime Minister Hubert A. Minnis said at a news conference late Monday afternoon. “Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery. I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders.”
The battered island of Grand Bahama was set to endure another day of dire conditions on Tuesday, with wind gusts of up to 150 m.p.h., storm surges as much as 15 feet above normal tide levels and devastating flooding from up to 30 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.
Dorian’s path could threaten Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
Forecasters said the hurricane would move “dangerously close” to the Florida coast, beginning late Tuesday night and continuing through Wednesday evening. Then, it is expected to continue toward the Georgia and South Carolina coasts beginning late on Wednesday. By the end of the week it is expected to be shadowing the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia.
Even if the hurricane’s center does not reach the Florida coast, strong winds and rain are all but certain to disrupt life in that region. Much of Florida’s eastern coast is also susceptible to dangerous storm surges.
Disney’s theme parks are closing, but one visitor has a backup plan.
Even the self-proclaimed “Most Magical Place on Earth” can’t put its wand on exactly where Hurricane Dorian will go, and so Walt Disney World will shutter most of its attractions by 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
The 40-square-mile theme park’s hotels remain open, but famous destinations like Epcot and the Magic Kingdom Park will not reopen until after the storm passes, “when it is safe to do so,” according to the resort’s website.
Families who traveled to Orlando over the weekend to visit the park had been monitoring the storm closely.
Chad Alan, 35, a toy collector from Indianapolis with a popular YouTube channel, arrived at the park on Sunday with his mother. He said he is a “Disney nerd” and visits often, but the closing is a first.
“It’s going to feel weird, because you’re going to feel a little trapped,” he said of being at the resort on Tuesday. “If all the parks are closed, there’s nowhere else to go.”
[Here’s what our photographers are seeing as Florida braces for a major hurricane.]
But Mr. Alan made a cozy, Disney-themed backup plan. He plans to invite over friends who are also visiting the park, order food, and watch Disney movies all day.
Mr. Alan and his mother have been documenting their trip — and Mr. Alan’s toy purchases — on his YouTube channel, which has more than 785,000 subscribers.
The Universal Orlando Resort said on Twitter that it was monitoring the storm and that a water theme park would be closed on Tuesday. The resort planned to keep the rest of the park open. More than 580 flights to and from Orlando’s airports had been canceled.
Orlando’s identity is tied to its amusement industry, which has helped it become the most popular destination in the United States. The Orlando International Airport also closed to commercial flights at 2 a.m. Tuesday and said it would be closed all day.
South Floridians are out of the cone, if not the woods.
South Florida, which had been bracing for a powerful hurricane since last week, on Monday was the first region to escape the cone of uncertainty, the area in which forecasters believe the hurricane may land.
Forecasters repeatedly cautioned that much of the coast is still susceptible to storm surges and gusts, and a tropical-storm-force wind breezed through Juno Beach Pier on Monday afternoon. They said even a small change could move the cone back onto the lower portion of the state, and a hurricane warning was in effect just north of West Palm Beach.
But the adjustment of the hurricane’s projected path nonetheless brought comfort to South Floridians who have been on high alert.
“If you went out into the streets today in Martin County, and you rolled your window down and you listened closely, you would hear a collective sigh of relief,” Sheriff William D. Snyder of Martin County said on Monday afternoon.
Winds over 39 m.p.h. were still expected, so causeways remained closed. Some 1,200 people had checked into the county’s emergency shelters. But Dorian continued to stay away from shore.
“We feel good, and yet we must stay alert,” Sheriff Snyder said.
Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County public schools, announced that classes would resume on Wednesday, “unless there is a shift in Dorian’s forecasted track.”
Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.