‘Leave now': Hurricane Dorian could hit Carolinas late Thursday, causes first US death – USA TODAY
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Hurricane Dorian swept past Florida on 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 diminished to Category 2 but had grown in size following its devastating sweep through the Bahamas. Dorian was about 100 miles northeast of Daytona Beach early Wednesday driving 110 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 in the Bahamas have been linked to Dorian.
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Utilities say Hurricane Dorian could leave hundreds of thousands without electricity in the southeastern United States as it moves up the Atlantic Coast.
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 on Thursday through Friday morning.
Areas of the coast could see a foot of rain and several feet of storm surge, the hurricane center warned.
The tropical-storm-force wind field has expanded up to 195 miles from the center, with hurricane-force winds stretching 70 miles, the National Hurricane Center 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 5 to 8 feet of storm surge. Anything above 3 feet is considered life-threatening, he said.
In Wrightsville Beach, N.C., property manager Luke Waddle said he would abide by the evacuation order. But he said he wasn’t too concerned about the storm, even though some of the homes he manages sustained water damage in Hurricane Florence last year.
“You always have concerns any time there’s a hurricane, especially after last year,” he said. “But this building’s been here since, like, 1950, so I don’t think this one’s going to have much issue.”
In South Carolina, Charleston resident Johnny Smith, 52, is a veteran of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Hugo was the most violent storm to strike South Carolina in modern history.
“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 Melbourne, Meg O’Malley’s Irish Pub & Restaurant owners Scott Marathas and John Peake were pulling metal shutters off the popular downtown Melbourne tavern, preparing to open in time for lunch.
“We did a lot of prep. We were very prepared for the storm,” Marathas said. “And we’re very fortunate that it didn’t become a much worse situation.”
Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Janine Zeitlin, Fort Myers News-Press; Eric Rogers and J.D. Gallop, Florida Today; Mackenzie Wicker and Dillon Davis, Asheville Citizen Times, Doyle Rice, USA TODAY