Hurricane Sandy was making its way through the Bahamas Thursday night, bringing destructive winds, driving rain, and dangerous storm surges to the central islands.
At 10 p.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that Sandy was about 15 miles north-northeast of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas and about 185 miles east-southeast of Freeport. The storm was moving to the north-northwest at 13 mph.
Sandy was packing maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to a hurricane hunter aircraft, making it a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The storm had been a category 2 hurricane earlier in the day, when it cut across Cuba. NHC forecasters were anticipating that the storm would gradually weaken over the next 48 hours, but would remain a hurricane as it moves into the northwest Bahamas Friday.
The Tribune newspaper in Nassau reported that there were widespread power outages in the southern, western, and central neighborhoods of that city.
Long Island was one of the first islands in the Bahamas hit by the center of the powerful hurricane and significant damage was reported.
Joel Friese, head of the Stella Maris Resort on Long Island, told the Tribune that winds in excess of 100 mph had damaged roofs, felled trees, and knocked down electricity and phone lines.
“It was way stronger than we expected,” Friese said. “The eye seems to have passed over a good portion of Long Island from south to north.”
Friese said the resort escaped with only some damaged shingles, but some homes in the area had suffered significant roof damage.
“We did all of this last year with Irene,” he noted. “This is a big blow considering this is only one year after that.”
Farmers on Long Island were experiencing major crop losses due to the storm, Member of Parliament Loretta Butler-Turner told the Nassau Guardian. Bananas, pineapples, corn, and peas are among the crops produced on the island.
Butler-Turner said the government administration center in Clarence Town was damaged by wind.
The government of the Bahamas ordered all schools on the islands closed Thursday and Friday. Government offices, with the exception of emergency services, also were closed and the government advised airports and seaports to close, as well.
Cat Island and Exuma also were hit hard by the storm.
A hurricane warning remained in effect for the northwest Bahamas, but the Bahamian government had changed the hurricane warning for the central Bahamas to a tropical storm warning and discontinued all watches and warning for the southeast Bahamas.
Sandy has caused itinerary changes for a number of cruise ships. Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas raced from the Bahamas toward the Florida coast Thursday ahead of the approaching storm. The ship was nearing Port Canaveral at 10 p.m. CDT.
Royal Caribbean said it was not changing any itineraries for ships scheduled to leave the Florida coast over the weekend.
“Given Hurricane Sandy’s current location and projected path, Royal Caribbean has not altered the itineraries of any ship that departs tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday,” the cruise line said in a statement on its website. “However, we encourage guests sailing on Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas [to] monitor this website for any additional updates.”
Much of the east coast of Florida is under either a tropical storm watch or warning. Sandy could cause a storm surge of 1-3 feet in the warning area along the Florida coast, according to the NHC. The storm is expected to produce 1-3 inches of rainfall in southeast and east-central Florida, with some spots possibly picking up as much as 6 inches.