McLEAN'S TOWN CAY, Bahamas (AP) — Hurricane Dorian ravaged the northern Bahamas as a catastrophic Category 5 storm, its record 185 mph (297 kph) winds ripping off roofs, overturning cars and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered down in schools, churches and shelters.
Dorian slammed into Elbow Cay in Abaco island at 12:40 p.m. Sunday, and then made a second landfall near Marsh Harbour at 2 p.m., after authorities made last-minute pleas for those in low-lying areas to evacuate.
"It's devastating," said Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. "There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported."
Video that Jibrilu and government spokesman Kevin Harris said was sent by Abaco residents showed homes missing parts of their roofs, downed power lines and smashed and overturned cars. One showed floodwaters rushing through the streets of an unidentified town at nearly the height of a car roof.
In some parts of Abaco, "you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins," said Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.
According to the Nassau Guardian, he called it "probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people."
Silbert Mills, owner of the Bahamas Christian Network, said trees and power lines were torn down in Abaco.
Jack Pittard, a 76-year-old American who has visited the Bahamas for 40 years, decided to ride out the storm — his first hurricane — in Abaco.
He said he battened down his house to spend the storm in a nearby duplex. He noted the ocean is quite deep near where he was staying, and there is a cay that provides protection.
A short video from Pittard about 2:30 p.m. showed winds shaking his home and ripping off its siding.
Harris, the government spokesman, said Dorian could affect 73,000 residents and 21,000 homes. Authorities closed airports for Abaco, Grand Bahama and Bimini, but Lynden Pindling International Airport in the capital of Nassau stayed open.
The archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer neighborhoods, with wooden homes in low-lying areas.