The prime minister of the Bahamas said parts of his country, which is just 200 miles southeast of Florida, were in "the midst of a historic tragedy."was stuck in place over the island nation, pounding the northern Bahamas for nearly 48 hours.
Reports from the country were dire — and the pictures tell the catastrophic story.
The runway at Grand Bahama Island's international airport looked like an ocean.
Dorian has ravaged the Bahamas with torrential rains and wind gusts over 220 mph. According to the Red Cross, an estimated 13,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Overwhelming storm surge swallowed entire neighborhoods. Video showed waist-deep water stretching for miles across the largely flat landscape.
Dorian's punishing conditions were amplified when the storm stalled directly over Grand Bahama, crawling across the island at a speed of just 1 mph.
"The devastation is unprecedented and extensive," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.
Reports said some people on the islands were so desperate to get to safety they were forced to cut holes in their roofs as floodwaters surged into their homes.
Extensive flooding was believed to have contaminated many wells with salt water, creating an urgent need for clean water.
The Bahamas' most populous island, New Providence, which is home to the city of Nassau, reportedly lost power more than two days ago.
The U.S. Coast Guard said four of its helicopters have been helping with rescues.
"Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery," Minnis said.
The life-threatening conditions have strained search-and-rescue efforts as distress calls poured in. One woman told a local news station her 8-year-old grandson drowned in the rising waters.
"My grandson's dead," Ingrid McIntosh said. "I'd just seen my grandson about two days ago. My grandson just tell me he love me."
And the death toll is likely to climb. A photo posted by a local newspaper showed bodies being loaded onto a flatbed truck.
Resident Kevin Tomlinson evacuated to a nearby shelter on Grand Bahama Island. He spoke overnight to CBS News correspondent David Begnaud by flashlight.
"You can feel the force and the pressure of the wind just biting against the building repeatedly, over and over, nonstop," Tomlinson said. "But our hearts are still strong, and the spirit of the Bahamian people is still intact, and we will rise from this occasion."
Most of Florida's east coast could feel tropical-storm-force winds within the next 24 hours. Twenty-five million people are in the projected path of this monster storm.
When it does move, other parts of the Southeast are in line to see more of an impact.
Virginia joined four other states overnight in declaring a state of emergency.
Coastal communities from Florida up through South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.