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Hurricane Dorian weakens to Category 1 storm as it whips North Carolina coast

Hurricane Dorian moves away from NC coast after Cape Hatteras landfall

Hurricane Dorian made landfall over Cape Hatteras, NC at 8:35 a.m, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm pounded the coast with heavy rain and wind, causing severe flooding and power outages across the state.
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Hurricane Dorian made landfall over Cape Hatteras, NC at 8:35 a.m, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm pounded the coast with heavy rain and wind, causing severe flooding and power outages across the state.

Read our latest story based on Friday-morning updates from the National Hurricane Center: https://bit.ly/2k3qswK

Hurricane Dorian was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Friday morning, but the storm’s speed was increasing and was expected to remain a powerful storm as it traveled up the East Coast.

The storm “brushed” the North Carolina coast late Thursday night after leaving a trail of damage and flooding from its journey up along South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. update. At 2 a.m., the National Weather Service reported that the storm’s center will “move near or over the coast” in the next several hours.

By 1 a.m., the storm had been downgraded with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. The storm had picked up speed, though, and was moving at 15 mph with “tropical storm conditions spreading quickly northward” along the state’s coast. The speed was expected to increase through Saturday as it headed north toward New England and Nova Scotia.

The eye of the storm was about 55 miles south of Wilmington, and 30 miles out of Cape Lookout as of 2 a.m. Friday, according to the NHC.

The hurricane center cautioned that tornadoes could occur in eastern North Carolina through southeastern Virginia.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Emergency Management reported 102,861 power outages across North Carolina, as of 2 a.m.

There was hope Dorian’s eye would not make a direct hit on land. At 9 p.m., National Weather Service meteorologist Jordan Baker said, “It’s going to be close, but it might push far enough east not to make landfall.”

As it heads north, the National Weather Service said the hurricane is expected to become a “post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds,” by Saturday night.

While Dorian is already affecting North Carolina, its impact from its time along the South Carolina coast is clear.

More than 230,000 power outages were reported by coastal South Carolina customers Thursday, and most were in the Charleston area, where more than 120,000 people had lost power.

Dozens of roads were flooded, and watches and warnings for tornadoes, flash floods and storm surge were growing north of Myrtle Beach into North Carolina.

A 98 mph wind gust was recorded on the South Carolina coast at 3 p.m., according to the hurricane center.

Flash flooding and storm surges remain the greatest threats caused by Dorian, the hurricane center tweeted.

A storm surge warning was discontinued south of Wrightsville Beach at 2 a.m., the National Weather Service reported.

As the storm continued to trek north, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster lifted his evacuation order for Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton counties, areas of the Lowcountry that the storm had passed.

Evacuation orders were still in effect for Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley, Georgetown, and Horry counties, as Dorian was forecast to hit the Grand Strand region.

“We are still battening down the hatches in the other five (coastal) counties, and we want everybody to be alert,” McMaster said at a news conference.

Tornadoes began to form on the northern edge of the storm just after dawn, including two reported in Horry County near Myrtle Beach, according to the Sun News.

A US flag on a tower 34 miles off Cape Fear is buffeted by Dorian wind gusts.

Multiple tornadoes were also reported In North Carolina.

A waterspout ripped through Emerald Isle about 9 a.m, destroying multiple mobile homes. A tornado touched down in Brunswick County, “leaving a trail of damage approximately 10 miles long near Calabash and Sunset Beach,” according to N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.

A funnel cloud was also recorded on video about 7 a.m. in Pender County near Fire Station 18, the National Weather Service tweeted.

As the damage and flooding mounted, evening curfews were announced in multiple communities near the N.C. coast, and a daytime curfew began at noon Thursday in Southport, N.C., ”until further notice,” according to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.

“Conditions are deteriorating and with confirmed tornadoes in the area, it is simply not safe to be out,” Brunswick County officials said on Facebook.

Even as Dorian moves further away from South Carolina, its dangerous effects remain in its wake. Tropical storm conditions were still affecting the northern portion of the South Carolina coast, according to the hurricane center’s 8 p.m. update.

But all of the hurricane warnings along the S.C. coast were removed, according to the NWS office in Columbia.

Hurricane warnings are still in effect for the North Carolina coast.

In North Carolina, predictions of rainfall in excess of 10 inches continued to grow, with nearly all coastal counties expected to get 10 to 15 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Heavy rainfall is predicted to fall far from the eye of the storm, the hurricane center tweeted.

While Dorian is expected to slowly weaken in the next few days, it will continue to be a “powerful hurricane” as it moves up the Carolinas coast, according to the NHC’s 5 p.m. update.

The storm can affect areas far inland with tropical-storm-force winds that extended 220 miles out from Dorian’s eye at 11 p.m., according to the hurricane center. Hurricane force winds extended 60 miles out.

A video tweeted by Live5News reporter Paola Tristan Arruda at 1:15 a.m showed Charleston’s famous North Market Street had become a river through the historic downtown, as emergency lights flickered on buildings.

Charleston had more than 50 road closures early Thursday, many due to flooding and others due to high winds bringing down trees and power lines, according to the city’s website.

A tree crashed into a North Charleston home just before 5 a.m., but the damage could have been worse if the little boy whose room was demolished hadn’t been sleeping in another room, WCSC reported.

Just before 8 p.m., McMaster tweeted he spoke with President Donald Trump about Dorian. The governor said Trump offered “any assistance needed.”

McMaster said FEMA officials were on the ground with him as the hurricane affected South Carolina.

The president tweeted about his conversation with McMaster, as well as speaking with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Georgia’s Brian Kemp.

“Just talked to Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina as Hurricane Dorian ominously comes up the East Coast,” Trump said, adding the White House is ready to help all three states and urging followers to “BE SAFE!”

In North Carolina, mandatory evacuations were in place for barrier islands. Coastal counties near the bays, coastal rivers and sounds also called for residents to evacuate near the coast.

Dorian is expected to bring deadly storm surge, flooding and tornadoes to the coast through the day Thursday as it heads toward the Outer Banks.

Forecasters have not predicted a potential area of landfall on the Carolinas, but suggest it could cross onto land at any point.

Coastal flooding was expected to reach 4 to 8 feet above normal levels from the Savannah River in South Caroline north to Cape Lookout on the Outer Banks, the National Hurricane Center said.

“The surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the how close the center of Dorian comes to the coast, and can vary greatly over short distances.”

The Pamlico County Sheriff’s Office said a man suffered a fatal heart attack Thursday after pulling his boat out of the water in Oriental, WTVD reported.

The man’s identity has not been made public, according to WITN.

North Carolina’s state medical examiner reported the state’s first Dorian-related death occurred Monday, when an 85-year-old Columbus County man “fell off a ladder while preparing his house for the storm.”

At least three of the 20-plus deaths attributed to the storm have involved men falling off ladders as they prepared for the storm or tried to remove trees, according to The Weather Channel. Most of the deaths occurred in the Bahamas.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John Quagliariell says Hurricane Dorian will inundate the SC coast with a storm surge of 4 to 7 feet. South Carolina, though, will not see the same long-duration river flooding seen with Hurricane Matthew.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Dorian

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.
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