Hurricane Dorian, downgraded to a Category 1 but still packing 90 mph (150 kph) winds, crawled north on Friday, skirting the Carolinas and flooding coastal towns a couple of days after it reduced parts of the Bahamas to rubble.
The eye wall of the weakening Hurricane Dorian was scrapping the edge of Cape Lookout, N.C., just 20 miles (30 km) due east of the state’s Outer Banks islands at 6 a.m. EST on Friday.
The hurricane does not officially make landfall until at least half of its eye crosses land, the National Hurricane Center said. It could still make landfall later this morning, forecasters said.
It lashed Outer Banks with hurricane-force winds as far as 45 miles from the center of the hurricane and sent tropical storm winds farther than 200 miles from its center, National Hurricane Center in Miami said in an advisory.
It has already dumped up to 10 inches (25 cm) of rain along the coast between Charleston, S.C., to Wilminton, N.C., about 170 miles away, forecasters said.
“The rain is moving up north,” said NWS forecaster Alex Lamers early on Friday. “Even the Raleigh-Durham area inland will get 3 inches today.”
Dorian is expected to push out to sea later on Friday and bring tropical storm winds to Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts early on Saturday.
But it will likely spare much of the rest of the east coast of he worst of its rain and wind, before likely making landfall in Nova Scotia that night, the NHC said.
“It’s in the process of moving out, going north,” Lamers said.
The howling west flank of Dorian has soaked the Carolinas since early Thursday, flooding coastal towns, whipping up more than a dozen tornadoes and cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people.
Floodwaters rose to a foot (30 cm) or more in parts of the historic South Carolina city of Charleston, where more than 7 inches (18 cm) of rain fell in some areas, officials said. Another half-inch or more was expected overnight Friday.
Among the few people in the streets Thursday as one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded drew close were John Rivers, 74, and his three children. They cleared drains of branches, leaves and debris, using a shovel, a rake and their bare hands.
“We’re giving the water somewhere to go,” Rivers said, sheltering under a covered walkway from the driving rain and gusts of wind while his daughter Caroline, 12, pulled off her rubber boots, pouring a stream of water from each.
“I see this as a good life lesson for my kids,” Rivers said.
More than 330,000 homes and businesses were without power in North Carolina and South Carolina on Friday morning. Power had mostly been restored to thousands of people in Georgia, tracking site poweroutage.us showed.
But as Dorian is expected to pick up speed from its 14 mph (22 kph) crawl on Friday, life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds remain a threat for much of the area and Virginia, the NHC said.
Governors in the region declared states of emergency, shut schools, opened shelters, readied national guard troops and urged residents to heed warnings, as media circulated fresh images of the storm’s devastation in the Bahamas.
At least 70,000 Bahamians needed immediate humanitarian relief after Dorian became the most damaging storm ever to hit the island nation.
In the Carolinas alone, more than 900,000 people had been ordered to evacuate their homes. It was unclear how many did so.
In Kill Devil Hills, in the Outer Banks, Mark Jennings decided to ignore the order, lining his garage door with sandbags and boarding up his home with plywood.
The retired firefighter planned to stay put with his wife and two dogs, saying: “We are ready to go. If something happens, we can still get out of here.”
Dorian whipped up at least three tornadoes in the region, officials said. One in North Carolina damaged scores of trailers at a campground in Emerald Isle, but no one was injured, the News & Observer said.
Of at least four storm-related deaths reported in the United States, three were in Orange County, Florida, during storm preparations or evacuation, the mayor’s office said.
In North Carolina, an 85-year-old man fell off a ladder while barricading his home for Dorian, the governor said.
(Reporting by Nick Carey in Charleston, South Carolina, and Amanda Becker in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Peter Szekely, Matt Lavietes and Scott DiSavino in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alison Williams)