Florida continued preparations as a slow-moving but still powerful Hurricane Dorian devastated the northwestern Bahamas Monday, while forecasters awaited the storm making a northwestward turn as it approached the East Coast.
"Dorian still nearly stationary but expected to begin moving north-northwestward later this morning," the National Hurricane Center said.
Parts of Florida were under hurricane watches and warnings, as Dorian's maximum sustained winds dipped to 120 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center's 5 a.m. Tuesday advisory.
By Tuesday morning, the storm's top sustained winds had dipped to 120 mph, making it a Category 3 hurricane, but it remained almost stationary. It was centered 35 miles northeast of Freeport — roughly the same distance from the city as at 9 a.m. Hurricane-force winds extended out as far as 45 mph in some directions.
Grand Bahama Island was experiencing "catastrophic winds and storm surge" as the storm stopped in its tracks, the NHC said.
A tropical storm watch remained in effect in Broward Monday, while no watches or warnings were in effect in Miami-Dade or Monroe.
Florida's Palm Beach County, which had been in the NHC's "Cone of Concern" trajectory, which forecasts the possible landfall of a hurricane, was removed Monday morning. By late Monday, all of Florida was out of the cone.
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A hurricane watch remained in effect for north of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet, while a hurricane warning was in effect for Jupiter Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia County line.
A storm surge warning was in effect for Lantana to the Flagler/Volusia County line, while a storm surge watch was in effect for north of Deerfield Beach to south of Lantana, and from the Flagler/Volusia County line to the Savannah River.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents to stay vigilant.
"It has done what the models suggested it would do, and it has essentially stalled out. It's moving about one mile per hour and that was predicted to happen for most of today. And then the forecasts are that it will then begin a descent north," DeSantis said at a news conference Monday. "Obviously when and how that happens, is going to be critical for impacts on the state of Florida. But our east coast is certainly within the cone still. And people need to remain vigilant. If you're ordered to evacuate, you need to do that from Palm Beach County all the way up to Nassau, the Florida-Georgia border, all those coastal counties have issued evacuation orders."
DeSantis said gas stations along evacuation routes would stay open, and tolls on major roads had been suspended.
"This has been frustrating I know for a lot of people because it seems like we've been talking about this for a long time. But we are in a situation where the storm is stalling very close to our coast," DeSantis said. "It is going to make a movement, and the movement that it makes is going to have a lot of impact on Floridians, so please listen to the instructions. Heed the instructions. Do what you need to do to keep you and your family safe."
The core of Dorian was expected to continue ravaging Grand Bahama Island through much of Monday.
"A slow westward to west-northwestward motion is forecast during the next day or so, followed by a gradual turn toward the northwest and north," the NHC said in a statement. "The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late tonight through Wednesday evening and then move dangerously close to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts on Wednesday night and Thursday."
The slow, relentless advance of Dorian has pounded the northern Bahamas, as one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded left wrecked homes, shredded roofs, tumbled cars and toppled power poles.
Information began emerging from the affected islands, with Bahamas Power and Light saying there is a total blackout in New Providence, the archipelago's most populous island.
"The reports out of Abaco (island) as everyone knows," company spokesman Quincy Parker told ZNS Bahamas radio station, "were not good."
Most people went to shelters as the Category 5 storm approached, with tourist hotels shutting down and residents boarding up their homes. But many people were expected to be left homeless.
In some parts of Abaco, "you cannot tell the difference as to the beginning of the street versus where the ocean begins," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said. According to the Nassau Guardian, he called it "probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people."