Hurricane Dorian, downgraded to a Category 1, but still packing 150kph winds, yesterday crawled north, skirting the Carolinas and flooding coastal towns in the US a couple of days after it reduced parts of the Bahamas to rubble.
The eye wall of the weakening storm was scraping the edge of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, just 50km west-southwest of the state’s Outer Banks islands at 7am yesterday.
A hurricane does not officially make landfall until at least half of its eye crosses land, the US National Hurricane Center said, adding that Dorian could still make landfall.
It lashed the Outer Banks with hurricane-force winds as far as 70km from its center and sent tropical storm-level winds more than 320km from its eye, the center said in an advisory.
It had already dumped up to 25cm of rain along the coast between Charleston and Wilmington, North Carolina, about 275km away, forecasters said.
“The rain is moving up north,” center forecaster Alex Lamers said early yesterday. “Even the Raleigh-Durham area inland will get 3 inches [7.6cm] today.”
Dorian was expected to push out to sea later in the day and carry tropical storm winds to Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, early today.
However, it was expected to spare much of the rest of the east coast of the worst of its rain and wind, before likely making landfall in Nova Scotia tonight, the center 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 on Thursday, flooding coastal towns, whipping up more than a dozen tornadoes and cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people.
Floodwaters rose to 30cm or more in parts of the historic South Carolina city of Charleston, where more than 18cm of rain fell in some areas, officials said.
Another 1.3cm or more was expected overnight.
More than 330,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and South Carolina yesterday morning.
Power had mostly been restored to thousands of people in Georgia, tracking Web site poweroutage.us showed.
However, as Dorian was expected to pick up speed from its 22kph crawl yesterday, life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds remained a threat for much of the area and Virginia, the center 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, where at least 30 people were killed.
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.”
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