The eyewall of Dorian, once again a Category 2 storm, is just offshore of the eastern coast of South Carolina. The hurricane left tens of thousands without power early Thursday and inundated low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia after a deadly surge in the Bahamas.
The Outer Banks in North Carolina, which are barrier islands off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, are blocked as Dorian approaches.
According to Dare County officials, there will be no access into the county effective 8 p.m. Thursday. In addition, curfews have been established for all areas of the county except the Town of Kitty Hawk beginning at 8 p.m. through at least noon on Friday.
Officials also predict that storm surge from ocean and sound side flooding will be 4 to 7 feet (1 to 2 meters) off the ground, not including wave action.
Dorian is now 55 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina, inching closer to the state. According to the National Hurricane Center, the wind gust at multiple observing stations by the Charleston Harbor were reported to be between 75 and 80 mph (120 – 129 kph).
The Category 2 storm is moving north at 8 mph with dangerously high winds of 110 mph.
Officials from the City of Charleston said nearly 150 trees toppled from Dorian's strong winds and rain, according to the Associated Press. They also said 108 roads are closed in Charleston due to flooding and power lines being knocked down.
As of recently, more than 248,000 people in South Carolina — about 9% of utility company customers in the state tracked by PowerOutage.US — were currently without power, according to the website. Georgia is also experiencing a mass power outage, leaving more than 3,700 residents without electricity. More than 5,500 outages are reported in North Carolina.
Dorian is expected to bring "life-threatening storm surge, winds, heavy rainfall and tornadoes to portions of the Carolinas," according to NHC.
The hurricane center also issued a storm surge warning in its 11 a.m. ET advisory along the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina. Water levels are expected to rise even more as strong winds hit closer to the coastal states.
As Dorian started advancing close to South Carolina late Wednesday night, winds picked up and sent rain sheets sideways, thunder boomed in the night sky and power flickered on and off in places. Heavy flooding had already begun early Thursday morning in downtown Charleston, with water as deep as 3 to 5 feet, according to videos posted on social media.
The NHC also ordered numerous tornado warnings over eastern North Carolina Thursday morning and warned residents to seek shelter inside buildings.
Several homes and infrastructure were destroyed by a tornado that ripped through Emerald Isle in North Carolina around 9 a.m. The U.S. National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City shared photos of the tornado's aftermath.
Over the weekend, Dorian crashed into the Bahamas as the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, leaving widespread devastation and at least 20 people dead. But it weakened substantially in the days since, dropping from a Category 5 to a Category 2 storm before restrengthening again late Wednesday.
Dorian could maintain this intensity for several days or so before gradually weakening through Saturday, according to the NHC.
Preparing for Dorian
In Charleston's downtown, stores and restaurants were boarded up with wood and corrugated metal by Thursday morning and about 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast.
A flood chart posted by the National Weather Service projected a combined high tide and storm surge around Charleston Harbor of 10.3 feet (3.1 meters); the record, 12.5 feet (4 meters), was set by Hugo in 1989.
Hundreds of thousands also were ordered off the Georgia coast.
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper warned of the threat of storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains. The Outer Banks barrier islands were particularly exposed.
The Navy ordered ships at its huge base in Norfolk, Virginia, to head to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, were being moved inland. The commander of the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic issued an emergency evacuation order for military personnel and their dependents in five North Carolina counties.
The acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Peter Gaynor, said 4,000 federal responders; 6,000 National Guard members; and 40,000 utility workers were on standby.
"We are ready to go," Gaynor said. "We'll follow Dorian up the coast until it is not a threat."
Meanwhile, there was a widespread relief Wednesday after the storm passed Florida from a relatively safe distance offshore. The state was initially projected to take a direct hit from Dorian. Orlando, Florida's international airport reopened, as did Walt Disney World and Universal.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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