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U.S. Coast Guard responds to Bahamas; five deaths confirmed

By UPI Staff & Chaffin Mitchell Accuweather.com
U.S. Coast Guard responds to Bahamas; five deaths confirmed
This is a frame from a video of damage caused by Hurricane Dorian near Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. Photo courtesy of Alicia Nesbitt/Facebook

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Hurricane Dorian continued crawling toward the U.S. coast as a powerful Category 3 hurricane Tuesday morning as it stalled over the Bahamas, pummeling the islands with winds in excess of 130 mph that have killed at least five people, ripped roofs off of houses, flipped cars and caused extreme devastation.

"The Abacos are still dealing with some very serious hurricane-force winds," AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala, who's on the ground in Nassau, reported. "The people they are taking off [the helicopters] do not look like they are in very good condition, but at least the coast guard is able to make it out there and perform these rescue operations."

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The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday that four Jakyawk helicopter crews transported 19 people in five evacuations from the Marsh Harbour Clinic to Nassau International Airport and that it plans to continue rescue operations "at first light Tuesday."

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Dorian hovered over the Bahamas, continuously battering the region for nearly 30 hours, moving approximately 14 miles between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, which is slightly more than the length of New York City's borough of Manhattan.

RELATED Airlines cancel hundreds of flights as Dorian threatens Florida coast

"Our thoughts are with the people of the Bahamas who have experienced savage destruction," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

As the monster storm slowly approached the United States, officials continue to trigger state of emergencies up the east coast from Florida to Virginia.

Millions of people living along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have been forced to evacuate. In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a State of Emergency on Sunday and urged residents to be prepared and cautious.

RELATED Georgia, South Carolina issue evacuation orders; North Carolina declares state of emergency

"North Carolina has endured flooding from two strong hurricanes in less than three years," Cooper said in a statement. "Now is the time to prepare for Dorian. To the people of North Carolina, particularly those still recovering in the eastern part of our state, we are working hard to prepare and we are with you."

In South Carolina and Georgia, Gov. Henry McMaster and Gov. Brian Kemp enacted mandatory evacuations for over 1 million people to take effect on Monday at noon. McMaster signed the Executive Order on Aug. 31, and Kemp signed his Executive Order on Sept. 1, ordering residents living east of I-95 to evacuate.

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South Carolina's evacuation order covers around 830,000 people, which McMaster recognizes might not be supported by all. In order to make transportation efforts smoother, all lanes on major coastal highways will become one-ways heading inland on Monday afternoon.

RELATED Florida evacuations underway as Dorian draws near

"We can't make everybody happy," McMaster said. "But we believe we can keep everyone alive."

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a State of Emergency on Thursday to include all 67 counties of the state. One of his main intentions for the State of Emergency declaration was to prevent fuel shortage issues that have plagued the state in years past.

"We just got off a video conference call with President Trump and the FEMA folks, governors McMaster, Cooper, DeSantis and I about the path of the hurricane and the preparations," Kemp said in a video posted on Twitter on Sunday. "It's still a massive storm and still heading our way. We're hoping it's going to turn north, but we need folks to remain vigilant and flexible. We will certainly keep you updated over the next 12 to 24 hours."

President Donald Trump spoke with both DeSantis and Florida Sen. Rick Scott last week, assuring both that the state would receive the support necessary. In order to stay in the States for the storm, Trump opted to send Vice President Mike Pence in his place to a previously scheduled trip to Poland.

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According to initial estimates from the Red Cross, more than 13,000 homes have been destroyed in the Bahamas from Dorian. In coastal cities of the southeastern U.S., officials are working to prepare residents for similar extreme damage.

Coastal cities in Florida were some of the first to evacuate, as DeSantis moved to suspend tolls on numerous major highways in order to assist with the movement of coastal residents.

In Melbourne Beach, a barrier island centrally located on Florida's Atlantic coast, residents refused to take Hurricane Dorian lightly, despite forecasts suggesting the storm may not make landfall there. AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala reported that many of the homes and business there have been boarded up for days in anticipation of Dorian's wrath.

"Folks are not ready to believe that this is going to stay off the coast," Petramala said in a report filed for the AccuWeather TV network.

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