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Why Hurricane Dorian lingered for so long over the Bahamas

Why did Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm on record to hit the Bahamas, linger over the island nation for so long? Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, joins Judy Woodruff to explain the "rare" conditions that kept the storm battering Grand Bahama for more than 20 hours, creating a “devastating” situation for residents, and shares the latest forecast for the southeastern U.S.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And let's look at the latest with where Dorian is headed now and some perspective on just how devastating a hurricane this was for the Bahamas.

    Ken Graham is the director of the National Hurricane Center.

    Ken Graham, thank you for joining us again.

    So, give us the latest information you have on Dorian.

  • Ken Graham:

    Judy, it's still moving to the north, stationary over the Bahamas for so long. It was a devastating situation.

    It's bad enough to get hit by a Cat 5 hurricane. It's even worse to have it sit there. So, when we saw it starting to move at one mile an hour and now five miles an hour, we're starting to move northward, get the core of those winds away from the Bahamas, but still a big impact for Florida and the Carolinas with time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what — how unusual is it that this storm has been sitting in one place and staying there for so long?

  • Ken Graham:

    Yes, it's pretty rare for a strong this strong to do that. It happens on occasion. But it doesn't happen too often, especially a strong one like this.

    But when you lose all those steering currents, there's nothing to steer this, and it just parks, and it just waits for the next system to steer. So that's a devastating situation. Think about 24, 30 hours of Category 5 winds and the battering of the water, and it's just a devastating situation for the Bahamas.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And before I ask you about the Bahamas, tell us what you know about or what you can interpret as you look at where this hurricane may go next.

  • Ken Graham:

    Yes, looking at that forecast with time, just right along the coast.

    And it's interesting, because the core winds have decreased throughout the day. But they have expanded. We have seen the winds, tropical-storm-force winds go from about 120 miles from the center all the way to 175 miles from the center, so much larger, with time, moving ever so slowly, 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, still off the Florida coast.

    And by the time you get into 2:00 p.m. Thursday, it does speed up. And we have it off the South Carolina coast and also on Friday still moving as a hurricane, so right along the coast of South Carolina, North Carolina, so still some impacts with storm surge and winds and some rainfall for the Carolinas.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So important for everybody to pay attention to along that East Coast.

    But, Ken, I want — I do want to bring you back to the Bahamas. It looks as if it's been catastrophic, the damage there.

  • Ken Graham:

    Yes, making landfall, you think about 180 mile-an-hour with even higher, some of the gusts over 200 miles an hour, just absolutely devastating.

    I mean, you think about the surge of up to 23 feet, 30 inches of rain, and the winds battering the coastline for that long, just absolutely devastating situation, life-threatening situation.

    So, when we started seeing that move northward today, it's just relief that we can get at least the core winds away from the islands.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You said it's unusual for a storm to sit this long in one place.

    Are those conditions that we are likely to see again? Are these the kinds of atmospheric conditions that can repeat themselves?

  • Ken Graham:

    Yes, you can.

    You go back in history, you can find others that did the same thing. I can think of large storms, Florence moving so slowly. I go back to Betsy in 1965, a very strong major hurricane, slowing down as well. So you can find it in history.

    When you lose those steering currents, it's just a dangerous situation. You hope they're open — over the open waters, but when they're over land, that's where you get the devastation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you do have to look at history when you're looking at these hurricanes.

  • Ken Graham:

    Yes, you do. Every one of them are so different. They bring different types of impacts.

    And if you think about this, bringing the devastation of the Bahamas, and then going into the future with this path, and you start seeing the storm surge. This is actually our storm surge forecast for the future, all the way from Florida into Georgia, the Carolinas and even inland. You get to North Carolina, you can see some of this storm surge go miles inland.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, paying close attention, and I know everyone there at the Hurricane Center is as well.

    Ken Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center, thank you.

  • Ken Graham:

    Thank you.

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