By Michael Le Page Hurricane Dorian stalled over Grand Bahama on 2 SeptemberTim Aylen/AP/Shutterstock Parts of Grand Bahama were battered by the strongest winds of hurricane Dorian for up to 15 hours on Monday, driving a storm surge that inundated most of the Caribbean island. No land in or around the Atlantic, and possibly worldwide, has ever been subjected to such powerful hurricane winds for so long in recorded history. By Tuesday, five deaths and extreme damage to infrastructure had been reported in the nearby Abaco Islands, also part of The Bahamas, which were struck first. The full extent of the impact on Grand Bahama is unlikely to become clear for days. When New Scientist went to press, the island was still being hit by extreme weather, even as Dorian weakened from a category 5 to a category 3 hurricane and moved slowly away. Advertisement Dorian is now forecast to move north up the US east coast. Storm surges and heavy rain are expected to cause extensive damage there even if the eye of the storm remains offshore. The fastest winds in a hurricane occur in the wall of the eye – the clouds around the clear centre of the storm – and drop off rapidly further out. Since a hurricane typically moves at least 15 kilometres an hour, the strongest winds don’t usually last long in any one place. But Dorian isn’t only notable as the joint strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded to strike land. It is also remarkable because it slowed to a near halt over Grand Bahama. This meant that parts of the island remained in the eye wall, with sustained wind speeds of around 300km/h, for between 10 and 15 hours on Monday. Hurricanes in a warmer world There is some evidence that hurricanes are moving more slowly due to global warming, though what part if any this played in Dorian’s stall isn’t yet clear. Grand Bahama was also inundated by a massive storm surge of up to 7 metres, fuelled by the intense winds. Video footage showed the airport turned into an inland sea and waves lapping at the windows of houses. Satellite images confirmed that most of the low-lying island was underwater on Monday. The surge there was around 0.2 metres higher than it would have been without global warming – that is how much sea level has risen due to our carbon dioxide emissions. It could rise by 3 metres by 2100. Hurricanes are also expected to intensify faster, to become stronger overall and to dump more rain as the world warms, and that seems to be just what is happening. All these factors make storms far more damaging. Grand Bahama may never fully recover from the damage caused by Dorian. Economic studies suggest that growth and incomes in areas hit by tropical cyclones remain lower than they would have been for decades after. Read more: There’s little doubt we’re to blame for hurricanes getting worse More on these topics: climate