Reaching high-end Category 5 strength, Dorian is a historic hurricane — the strongest on record to affect the Bahamas. Its 185 mph maximum sustained winds are close to the highest ever observed in the Atlantic and it features textbook presentation from the vantage point of space.

The storm is nearly perfectly symmetrical, and a ring of towering thunderstorms surrounds its unmistakable eye. The clouds surrounding the eye exhibit a “stadium effect” expanding outward with altitude like a sports venue.


Hurricane Dorian at Category 5 intensity approaching the northwestern Bahamas early Sunday morning. (NOAA)

Dorian’s winds are the strongest ever observed so far north in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida. Its pressure, down to 911 millibars, is stronger than Hurricane Andrew’s when it made landfall in south Florida in 1992. Only one Atlantic hurricane, since 1950 has had stronger winds than Dorian: Allen in 1980 with 190 mph winds.

The National Hurricane Center has described Dorian’s satellite appearance as “outstanding,” “stunning” and “impressive.” Remarkably, the storm has maintained this textbook look since Saturday morning.

While the storm has an incredible appearance from space, it is deadly serious as it slams the northern Bahamas where the National Hurricane Center expects “extreme destruction.”

Dorian attained such exceptional strength through a process known as rapid intensification, in which its peak winds increased more than 35 mph in 24 hours. It started Friday as a Category 2 (with 105 mph winds), before becoming a high-end Category 4 (with 150 mph winds) Saturday and a Category 5 Sunday.

Here are several more extraordinary views of the storm: