As Hurricane Dorian grew in size Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center says residents who live in coastal communities of North Carolina and South Carolina should heed the advice of local officials and evacuate.
Category 2 Dorian had lost some wind strength — down to 110 mph — but was slowly expanding in size, spreading out as much as 15 miles in all directions, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“The center of Dorian is forecast to move near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday through Friday morning,” the NHC reported in a 5 p.m. update.
As Dorian’s track has shifted closer to the South Carolina coast, that entire stretch has been placed under a hurricane warning, WMBF reported.
At 3 p.m., Dorian was moving away from the Bahamas, and tropical storm force winds were reported along Florida’s east coast, the NHC tweeted.
A weather station in Florida’s Sebastian Inlet recorded sustained winds of 39 mph, with gusts as powerful as 49 mph, the NHC said.
It had also begun speeding up and turning north, prompting the first round of hurricane watches for North Carolina and its Outer Banks.
Tropical storm force winds in the 40 to 70 mph range could reach southern counties in South Carolina later Tuesday, while North Carolina could feel the first impact by 8 a.m. Wednesday, experts predict. (Storm surge and hurricane watches are already in effect for parts of South Carolina.)
Days of heavy rain — up to 15 inches in some coastal spots — will fall during that period, and could produce “life-threatening flash floods,” forecasters said early Tuesday.
Wind gusts of 50-plus mph will whip eastern North Carolina Wednesday and Thursday, along power outages and “a tornado or two,” experts say.
Dorian should “begin moving slightly faster toward the north-northwest during the next 36 hours, followed by a northward and then northeastward motion near or over the coasts of South and North Carolina,” says the National Hurricane Center. “After moving offshore of the Outer Banks, Dorian should get caught in the mid-latitude westerlies and accelerate northeastward.”
The National Hurricane Center has not predicted where Dorian will make landfall, but the storm will likely be closest to shore as it passes the Outer Banks.
Multiple counties along the coast of North Carolina have declared a state of emergency, with evacuations either suggested or mandated, as in the case of Dare County. School districts in those areas have canceled classes for the week, and UNC Wilmington ordered an evacuation of its campus near the coast.
“I urge you to closely follow the forecast and listen to your local officials,” N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said in a press release. “If they order an evacuation please follow their instructions.”
At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Hurricane Dorian was moving northwest at 6 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph. It is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches the Southeast, and was about 100 miles from Vero Beach, Florida, according to the NHC.
Winds were increasing along Florida’s coast at 5 p.m., as the expanding Dorian was blowing hurricane-force winds up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 175 miles out, the NHC reported.
It is expected to “move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late (Tuesday) through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday,” the NHC said.
“Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175. A wind gust to 61 mph was recently reported at Juno Beach Pier, Florida.”
Dorian is expected to begin a slow turn north up the East Coast Wednesday evening, bringing “the risk of life-threatening storm surge and hurricane force winds along the coast of North Carolina,” forecasters say.
Although the eye of Dorian is moving away from the Bahamas after two days in the region, it still poses a threat.
“Dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge will continue over that island through this evening,” the NHC reported.
The storm’s slow pace — or complete lack of movement at all — is chief among the reasons forecasters fear it could cause devastation along the East Coast: The slower it moves, the more likely it is the Carolinas will be whipped for an extended period by heavy winds and torrential rain.
The NHC reported several warnings and watches are in effect for South Carolina, including:
▪ A storm surge watch from North of South Santee River, SC to Cape Lookout, NC
▪ A hurricane warning from north of Edisto Beach, SC to South Santee River, SC
▪ A hurricane watch from north of South Santee River, SC to Duck, NC