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Hurricane Dorian Hits The Bahamas

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hurricane Dorian continues to bear down on the Bahamas. Over the weekend, the storm strengthened to a catastrophic Category 5 with sustained wind speeds of 185 miles per hour. That's the strongest in modern records to hit the Bahamas. Patrick Oppmann is a correspondent with CNN. He's been reporting from Freeport on Grand Bahama, which is right in the path of the storm. And he joins us now. Patrick, can you just give us a sense of what you're seeing, especially in these last 48 hours?

PATRICK OPPMANN: So we're seeing these tall pine trees that survived the last major hurricane, Hurricane Matthew. And they're getting thrown around by Dorian. I can't imagine they will survive this storm. And it's howling outside. It sounds like a jet engine at certain points. Occasionally, there'll be a little bit of a lull, but then it comes back even stronger. So it is a hurricane, but it's more powerful, really, than I've covered and more powerful than anybody has ever experienced in the Bahamas. And that is a concern because many people here perhaps didn't take it as seriously as they should. Many people told me they were going to ride it out in their homes. And so much of this area where I am is just low-lying, very small islands, coastal communities. If they're not underwater right now, they will be soon.

MARTIN: Have you been able to to look outside? Have you seen the damage?

OPPMANN: Yes, so we - crazily enough, we met this very nice couple on the beach one day. And they invited us to come up to their apartment - we've been living with for three days. And they have an amazing view. And so we are over the beach. And we are seeing the water coming up. But it's still a long way to come because this storm - really incredible things about it - one is its power but also how slow it's going. And it's a deadly combination. You know, the strong Category 5 that is essentially stalled out over us. And that means it'll be hours, if not days, of just getting a complete beating. And that also raises the possibility of a very high storm surge. And they've been talking about a storm surge of 20 feet, which sounds terrifying. Then you add the fact that we're on an island where the highest point of land is 30 feet, and you begin to realize exactly what the implications of that are going to be for so many people.

MARTIN: I did note that when you described how the wind will kick up - and this harrowing sound - and then die down. You can't think to yourself, oh, it's over because it is so slow-moving. It's - it creates a different kind of psychological component.

OPPMANN: It does. And on top of that we're in the dark because the lights went out last night. We have flashlights. But I think for so many people - I'm looking out across the city of Freeport, and only a handful of lights on. So I think for so many people, this is how they spent the night last night - hearing this roar, whine. At certain points, it sounds like, you know, a wild animal growling or something. I know that sounds crazy, but it's the only way I can describe it. And you're sitting in the dark. And if you're someplace low - you know, we're seeing videos that people are sending via Whatsapp all around - and some of them being forwarded on to us - of people with water already in their homes. So we always see with hurricanes that it's bad. But again, I've covered a lot of these. And this is kind of the worst-possible scenario to be in a low-lying place, to have such a powerful hurricane over us that just refuses to leave.

MARTIN: That's the historic nature of it. Patrick Oppmann, correspondent with CNN, talking to us from Freeport on Grand Bahama. Patrick, thank you so much.

OPPMANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.