As Hurricane Dorian slowly inched its way north on Tuesday, people in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas braced for the killer storm that could pack a life-threatening storm surge and devastating destruction.
In Florida, people were warned not to let their guard down despite Dorian being downgraded to a Category 2 storm from its Category 5 peak days earlier.
The National Hurricane Center warned people not to be fooled by a false sense of safety because Dorian’s wind speeds had decreased.
“The combined wind, surge and floods hazards are the same or even worse since the hurricane has become larger,” the NHC said.
In Jacksonville, Fla., business owner and avid surfer Tony Hall told Fox News he was planning on closing his surf shop around 5 p.m. on Tuesday but planned on returning Wednesday to surf in the storm.
“I have been tracking this storm for weeks and weeks,” Hall said. “I’m definitely worried for the southern part of Florida but I have been waiting for this storm all my life.”
Linda Locklahn, a Missouri tourist who was staying near the Casa Marina Hotel in Jacksonville Beach with her family, said she won’t be following Hall’s move.
“Not a chance,” Locklahn told Fox News. “We’ve been watching weather updates and if it gets too bad, we’re out of here.”
On Tuesday, Dorian showed signs it was growing. The National Hurricane Center said as of 11 a.m., Dorian was continuing to produce wind gusts of up to 110 mph and a storm surge of 10 to 15 feet “with higher destructive waves.”
The storm’s current movement is northwest at 2 mph with “dangerous winds and life-threatening” storm surge continuing to affect parts of Grand Bahama Island before turning toward the U.S. coast. When Dorian slammed the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, it unleashed massive flooding and unprecedented damage. The hurricane shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced rescue crews to take shelter.
By late Monday, Dorian’s winds fell to 130 mph from 185 mph. The storm spent most of Monday and part of Tuesday essentially stalling out over the Bahamas and pounding the island.
Dorian’s wrath likely will be felt in parts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia in the coming days, forecasters have said.
On Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered people in six counties — Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh — to evacuate. He added that all Interstate 16 lanes will run west beginning Tuesday at 8 a.m. to give people the opportunity to leave.
Randall Matthew, the emergency preparedness manager in Chatham, said the county would offer free rides to the Savannah Civic Center for evacuees. Staying at the pet-friendly shelters would be free, as would the ride back to Savannah after Dorian passes.
“Right now, we’re really threading the needle with this storm,” Matthew said. “It could go from, ‘Man, that was close,’ to something that is really awful,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
By midday Tuesday, a hurricane warning was in effect for the South Carolina Lowcountry, including Charleston.
Dorian’s speed and direction change prompted the first round of hurricane watches for North Carolina and its Outer Banks.
The sense of urgency on the islands began Sunday when Cape Lookout National Seashore was the first to ask tourists to evacuate the national park. Dare County, which encompasses nearly one-third of the Outer Banks, followed, ordering a mandatory evacuation of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Manteo and Nags Head.
Hyde County canceled ferry rides to the islands and warned people to have an evacuation plan in place.
“Please keep in mind that highways along the coast frequently suffer overwash during periods of surge and everyone should make their evacuation plans accordingly,” Hyde County officials warned in a news release.
Multiple school districts in North Carolina have canceled class all week while UNC Wilmington ordered an evacuation of its coastal campus.
“I urge you to closely follow the forecast and listen to your local officials,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a written statement. “If they order an evacuation please follow their instructions.”
On Sunday, a Virginia man died after he was pulled from the waters off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Investigators were looking into whether the 61-year-old man drowned due to rip currents caused by Dorian.
“We’re leaving but taking our time,” photographer Eva Janowski, who was vacationing in Nags Head with her family, told Fox News. “We’ve been here before. I know this isn’t the smartest plan, but we’re going to wait it out a little while longer.”
In Virginia, which could feel tropical-storm-force winds starting Thursday, the Navy was seen moving seven aircraft from Naval Station Norfolk to Naval Air Station Pensacola ahead of Dorian. Jason Bortz, a spokesman for Naval Air Station Pensacola, told the Pensacola News Journal that the C-2 Greyhounds and E-2 Hawkeyes should arrive by early Wednesday.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.