Hurricane Dorian Update

Reprinted with permission from our partners at Center for Disaster Philanthropy

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As with all hurricanes, Dorian is a fast-moving, ever-changing event. This profile is intended to assist philanthropic and individual funders with decisions about needs and impacts in the aftermath of the storm. We encourage you to check out your local news, the National Hurricane Center or the National Weather Service to get up-to-the-minute information about the location of the storm and current impacts.

Hurricane Dorian is tied with the 1935 Labor Day storm as the strongest storm to make landfall in the Atlantic and the strongest hurricane to hit the Bahamas.

Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco on Sunday, Sept. 1, at Elbow Cay (around 12:45 pm ET) and at Marsh Harbour at 2 pm ET. Winds were at 185 mph with higher gusts at both landfalls. The storm moved very slowly toward Grand Bahama Island making landfall there at 11 pm ET on Sunday night with slightly decreased winds.  The slow movement of the storm has meant that Dorian remained atop Great Abaco, and now above Grand Bahama Island, for an extended period of time. By all accounts, there has been extensive destruction due to high winds and strong surge. As a storm chaser noted on Twitter, tornadoes last seconds but these are tornado-strength winds for hours. Five deaths have been reported in the Bahamas.

Although it is predicted to weaken eventually, it is expected to retain major hurricane status as it moves toward the Atlantic coast of the U.S. It is uncertain at this point if Dorian will make a direct U.S. landfall, since many factors can change the trajectory and speed of the path. Regardless of whether it makes landfall, tropical force winds, heavy rains (including flash flooding) and storm surge are predicted along coastal Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The lower mid-Atlantic region (Virginia, Washington DC) may even see impacts toward the end of the week. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 45 miles from Dorian’s eye and tropical storm-force winds can extend outwards up to 140 miles.

Hurricane strength is based solely on wind speed but the size of the storm, the speed of movement and the amount of storm surge it pushes and rain it carries are also significant factors in predicting the amount of damage that will occur. For example, Dorian is expected to produce 12 to 24 inches (isolated 30 inches) in the northwestern Bahamas, additional one to three inches (isolated six inches) in the Central Bahamas,  five to 10 inches (isolated 15 inches) in Coastal Carolinas and four to eight inches (isolated 10 inches) along the Atlantic coast from the Florida Peninsula to Georgia. This could lead to flash flooding. Storm surge and life-threatening surf and rip currents are increasing in the Bahamas and the southeastern U.S.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a State of Emergency for all 67 counties in Florida. Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp has issued a State of Emergency for 12 counties in that state. South Carolina’s governor Henry McMaster and Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina have also declared a State of Emergency in their states. This allows the state and counties to move supplies and position resources. It also allows them to take all actions necessary to “waive everyday procedures and do what they feel is necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the community. This includes:

  • Ordering evacuations
  • Performing public work
  • Making emergency purchases
  • Renting equipment
  • Hiring workers
  • Using volunteers.”

Mandatory evacuations have been declared in parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Over one million people are being ordered out of harm’s way; 830,000 in South Carolina alone.

The full extent of damage has yet to be determined. We do know that some of the areas likely to be impacted by Dorian were affected by hurricanes in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and are not fully recovered.

In the Bahamas there have been catastrophic impacts due to the wind and storm surge. It is likely there will be lengthy power outages and infrastructure damage. While full reports are not available from the Bahamas yet, it is estimated that 13,000 homes were damaged or destroyed to date.

Within the U.S., even without direct landfall, there is still a risk of flooding which could lead to property damage, beach erosion and loss of power. Hurricanes often spin off tornadoes which are another significant concern.

Immediate emergency relief needs include shelter, food, medical support, search and rescue operations, livestock relocation and power/communications restoration. These are primarily the responsibility of local and state government entities and existing partners within the state.

Homes that are destroyed or suffer major damage will require mucking, gutting and rebuilding. Even structures that only have minor flooding will require significant work — according to FEMA, one inch of water in a home equals $25,000 of damage. There will also be a need for debris removal. Replacement of belongings including furniture and clothing, appliances and vehicles is also likely.

But the short-term needs are only part of the story. Previous experience has shown us that most people, corporations and foundations, make donations in the first few days after a hurricane makes landfall. Yet the needs continue for years to come.

Long-term recovery will include restoration of property, livelihood recovery and environmental cleanup. There will likely also be significant infrastructure damage to dams, roadways, bridges etc. Telecommunications and power infrastructure are also likely to be disrupted.

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