CHARLESTON, S.C. – Hurricane Dorian swept past Florida Wednesday on a collision course with the Carolinas, claiming its first life in the U.S. and promising heavy rains, powerful winds and damaging surge.

The historic storm had technically diminished to Category 2 but actually had grown in size following its devastating roll through the Bahamas. Dorian was about 100 miles northeast of Daytona Beach early Wednesday driving 105 mph winds, the National Hurricane Center said.

More than 1 million coastal residents from Florida to North Carolina were facing evacuation orders.

“Leave now if you are in an area where an evacuation has been ordered,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged. “It is not worth putting your life or the life of first responders at risk.”

Cooper said an 85-year-old man fell to his death from a ladder while preparing his Columbus County home for the storm. At least seven deaths have been linked to Dorian in the Bahamas.

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Federal emergency declarations have been approved for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Gov. Ralph Northam declared an emergency in his state as well. 

Parts of the Florida coast were experiencing heavy rains and winds Wednesday. The center of Dorian was forecast to move near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday through Friday morning.

Areas of the coast could see 10 inches of rain and several feet of storm surge, the hurricane center warned.

The tropical-storm-force wind field has expanded up to 175 miles from the center, with hurricane-force winds stretching 60 miles, AccuWeather warned. AccuWeather Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said Dorian could draw within 30 miles of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – and possibly make landfall there – late Thursday.

“It’s the three capes of North Carolina where I think we will get a landfall, or within 20 to 30 miles: Cape Fear, Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras,” Rayno added.

Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said the Carolinas could see as much as 4 to 7 feet of storm surge. Anything above 3 feet is considered life-threatening, he said.

In South Carolina, Charleston residents were monitoring the storm closely. Johnny Smith, who lives in a downtown housing complex, remembered last year and how Hurricane Florence had no impact.

Smith, 52, is a veteran of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the most violent storm to strike South Carolina in modern history.

“We don’t play with hurricanes,” Smith said. “When the tide is high, we get flooded out.”

More: Stunning satellite images show Hurricane Dorian’s floodwaters engulfing The Bahamas

Smith said he’s awaiting more direction from the local media on the track of the storm but will evacuate if there’s a hint it could have a severe impact, despite having seen a lot of “near-misses.”

“One year it can pass, the next year you can have an all-out hurricane,” Smith said. “It would break my heart to see people hurt and lose their home. You’re kind of pulled in both directions. You hope for the best.”

Concerns over Dorian were easing in Florida. Orlando International Airport opened and local theme parks were open for business. 

In Indialantic, tattoo artist Alex Wilson said he rode out the storm at home with his chihuahuas, Rosie and Penny. His wife, who works for the county, was stationed overnight at a shelter in Viera.

There was little damage after the storm, he said, and they didn’t even lose power. He and his wife waited a week for the lights to come on after Irma in 2017.

“When you look at the Bahamas, we dodged a bullet,” Wilson said.

Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Janine Zeitlin, Fort Myers News-Press; Eric Rogers, Florida Today.