Dorian has been a storm none of us will ever forget. It’s as scientifically stunning as it’s been heartbreaking, scenes of calamity emerging from the wreckage. Below, we present some of the most meteorologically spectacular images that depict Dorian’s fury.

Vegetation stripped bare

Dorian’s 185 mph winds shredded the formerly verdant landscape of the northwest Bahamas, turning the lush Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco island into a barren, brown landscape. Check out this photo from before the storm:


Satellite imagery of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, on May 29. (PlanetLabs)

Now, look at the damage left behind: boats sunk, every speck of greenery denuded and torn from the ground, buildings dashed and thrashed to smithereens. This area was also probably underwater for a time. Notice how much sediment has been stirred up by Dorian’s extended washing machine-like churning; it will take several days of settling before the oceans return to their ordinarily azure allure. Pay attention as well to how far back inland the tree line has been pushed in the top right part of the second image.


Hurricane Dorian lay Abaco island to waste. (PlanetLabs)

The roar of the waves

It wasn’t just the hellacious wind that heralded Dorian’s wrath — a 23-foot storm surge accompanied landfall as well. Offshore, waves of 40 to 50 feet crested as the Category 5 monster stirred the seas up wildly.

A seismometer near Palm Springs, Fla., was one of many stations that experienced added “noise” due to rattlings caused by the angered sea state. The seismometers used in the Global Seismographic Network are sensitive enough that they could detect the equivalent of a dime placed beneath North America. When strong storms slosh large amounts of water around, the tumultuous shaking of the ground actually jostles seismometers enough to show up on plots. This was compounded by Dorian’s days-long stall.

For reference, we’ve included a “baseline” during tranquil weather two weeks back in August. Now, compare that to the seismometer reading Sunday when Dorian was building in strength, and Wednesday while the waters and waves were roaring. Pretty remarkable difference!


Three one-day snippets of a seismograph in Florida detecting the earth shaking as a result of Dorian's wild ocean waves. (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology)

Living on the edge

As Dorian departed the tropics, its cloud cover began to fan outward dramatically. By Thursday morning, Dorian’s cloud field stretched 2,000 miles, from the Gulf of Mexico to south of Nova Scotia over the open Atlantic.


By Thursday afternoon, Dorian's cloud shield extended 2,000 miles! (NOAA/RAMMB)

It threw shade on many East Coast cities Thursday, but largely fringed the coast Wednesday. In the District, Dorian’s upper-level outflow appeared as a pale sheet being draped across the sky.

Sparks of horror

It’s rare for a hurricane to produce much lightning. Seeing one as electrified as Dorian is remarkable.

Dorian’s eyewall became supercharged over the weekend, throwing out lightning bolts haphazardly like a parade marcher tossing deadly candy. We warned last week that the sudden uptick in lightning activity may portend a bout of rapid intensification. Indeed, Dorian’s barrage of cloud-to-water strikes Sunday morning came hours before it blossomed into the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record.

In the eye

Dorian weakened to a Category 2 storm Thursday, but it passed directly over a NOAA Buoy.

The winds spike in the eyewall, then plummet to virtual calm. In the sequence of images to the right, brightening skies can be seen, with even a few birds. It’s not uncommon for birds to become trapped in the middle of a hurricane, unable to escape because of the strong inward winds.

Earlier in Dorian’s life cycle, multiple photos were captured inside the eye as it was at Category 5 status.

Here’s from the air …

And meanwhile, it was even more impressive from the ground:

On the cusp of disaster

It’s hard to appreciate just how close a call Florida had to absolute disaster; had Dorian been just 100 miles farther to the west, a swath of heavily populated areas would be scoured just as was the case in the Bahamas. If the eyewall had hit a city like Miami or Fort Lauderdale, the scope of the carnage could have been devastating.

Dorian was close enough to the U.S. mainland that the National Weather Service’s Miami-based radar picked up the eyewall lurking ominously close as it terrorized Grand Bahama island.

The radar plot attests to how far we’ve come as a field forecasting; 20 years ago, this map would have probably been viewed as unequivocally dire for the Florida coast.


Dorian's eyewall buzzes just to the east of Florida. (NOAA/GR2 Analyst)

The tornadoes

Dorian produced at least a dozen reported tornadoes. The radar across the Carolinas lit up with “hook echoes” Thursday as funnel clouds dropped and danced, causing additional damage in the outer rain bands. Live webcam video tracked this tornado as it roared into Emerald Isle, N.C.

The 100-yard-wide tornado obliterated mobile homes, with winds probably topping 120 mph.