Hurricane Dorian Slams Southeastern US Coast with Window-Rattling Winds and Sideways Rain

AP News
September 05, 2019 - 7:23 am

AP

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A North Carolina beach town is reporting damage from a tornado that was spun off as Hurricane Dorian approaches.

Emerald Isle, North Carolina, said in a news release on its website that the waterspout touched down around 9 a.m. Thursday. More than a dozen campers were knocked on their side, their metal skin mangled and twisted. Some were flipped upside-down, with their tires now aimed toward the sky. A blue beach chair was left dangling, suspended in the wires that held up a power line. Other power lines were downed across a parking lot, where trash was strewn everywhere.

Other tornados spun off by Dorian's outer bands struck other areas along the coast.

By late morning, heavy rain was falling sideways, trees were bending and traffic lights were swaying as Emerald Isle hunkered down again. The city was ground zero in 1996's Hurricane Fran, which was the last major hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina. Emerald Isle also weathered Hurricane Florence in 2018 and a half-dozen other hurricanes in between.

Dorian's maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly to 110 mph (175 kmh), making it once again a Category 2 hurricane.

That's still strong enough to cause damage along the coast of the Carolinas, where the storm is now close enough for hurricane-force winds to hit land.

Forecasters say Dorian's center at 11 a.m. EDT was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, still moving north off the coast at about 8 mph (13 kmh). Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

The National Hurricane Center says large and destructive waves up to 8 feet high could be seen in Myrtle Beach if peak surge happens during high tide.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents that extensive damage is expected at the coast regardless of whether Hurricane Dorian makes landfall.

Cooper said Thursday morning at a news conference that the approaching storm "is serious and can be deadly." He urged people to "get to safety and stay there."

The governor already ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state's fragile barrier islands, although people can't be forced to leave their homes. More than 1,000 people already are in over 50 shelters.

He says the storm spawned an apparent tornado early Thursday in Brunswick County that caused some damage.

Cooper says forecasts show up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain and possibly more falling in coastal areas with sustained winds of 100 mph (161 kph). He anticipates hundreds of thousands of people will lose power with fallen trees.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has lifted evacuation orders along the Georgia coast, which was largely spared by Hurricane Dorian .

Kemp tweeted Thursday morning that residents can return to the state's six coastal counties after the storm passed near the shoreline overnight.

Many of the 530,000 people in coastal Georgia stayed to ride out Dorian. Glynn County spokesman Matthew Kent said all roads and bridges were open to St. Simons Island, home to about 12,000 people roughly 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Savannah.

Kent said a few hundred people on the island were without power and work crews were cleaning up fallen tree limbs. But none of it compared to the wind and flood damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.

In South Carolina, a North Myrtle Beach city spokesman says officials believe one or more suspected tornadoes from Hurricane Dorian damaged several residences and mobile homes in the city Thursday morning.

Spokesman Patrick Dowling tells The Associated Press no injuries were reported, but several residents were taken to shelters.

City officials in North Myrtle Beach say rain is combining with the rising ocean to exacerbate flooding. At least 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain had fallen by 9 a.m. and strong winds blowing onto the shore were preventing the tide from fully receding.

Dorian is currently moving up the East Coast as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm devastated the Bahamas as it moved over the islands earlier this week, causing at least 20 deaths.

More than 215,000 homes and businesses are without power as Hurricane Dorian lashes the southeastern coast with wind and rain.

More than 200,000 of the outages were being reported Thursday morning in the coastal counties of South Carolina. But lights are also out in southeastern Georgia.

Outages will likely spread up the East Coast as Dorian moves north. Duke Energy projects Dorian will knock out electrical service to about 700,000 customers in the Carolinas.

Forecasters say Dorian is a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 115 mph (185 kph).

The storm devastated the Bahamas as it moved over the islands earlier this week, causing at least 20 deaths.