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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hurricane Dorian has been downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane as it stalls and continues to pound the Bahamas Monday. This is a powerful and catastrophic storm that has parked over the Bahamas over the last 12 hours.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, a Hurricane Watch was extended northward to South Santee River South Carolina.
At 11 p.m. Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Dorian, which is described as a catastrophic hurricane, made landfall on the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island.
Maximum winds from Dorian are sustained at 145 mph with higher gusts. According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center, while tropical-storm-force winds extend about 150 miles from Dorian’s center.
First Warn chief meteorologist Brad Panovich thinks the biggest concerns for the Carolinas will be storm surge and flooding along the coast. Charlotte has about a 15% chance of seeing tropical-storm-force winds as Dorian moves north, Panovich says.
Here’s the latest on Hurricane Dorian
As of the 5 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center
LOCATION: ABOUT 25 MILES NORTHEAST OF FREEPORT GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND, ABOUT 105 MILES EAST OF WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS: 145 MPH
Even though Dorian could stay offshore, the impacts on eastern North Carolina could be devastating, Panovich said.
“The concern is going to be storm surge,” Panovich said. “Looking at 4 to 7 feet of storm surge up the coast of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Eastern North Carolina, the winds will be wrapping around with sound-side flooding.
“It’s going to be pouring rain, the water will try to go back out to sea and it will run into the surge and you get backups and big-time flooding. Some of the biggest impacts could be in eastern North Carolina. This is not a good setup for eastern North Carolina, even with the strongest winds being offshore.”
The high risk along the coast could result in 4-7 feet of storm surge, up to 10 inches of rain and 50-75 mph winds as the storm churns north.
In Charlotte, Panovich said the impacts won’t be felt much at all from Dorian.
“It’s not zero, but it’s single-percentage worries for winds and heavy rain in Charlotte,” Panovich explained. “The highest percentages of hurricane-force winds in the Carolinas are in Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Hatteras. It’s at 20%, but that will probably go up.”
Dorian is stationary, as of the 5 p.m. advisory. Slower westward to west-northwestward motions are expected to continue for a day or two, followed by a gradual turn toward the northwest.
Currently, Dorian has become nearly stationary, but a slow westward to west-northwestward motion is expected to resume overnight.
On this track, the core of Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Grand Bahama Island into Tuesday morning, then is expected to move ‘dangerously close’ to Florida east coast late Tuesday through Wednesday evening then move dangerously close to the Georgia and South Carolina coasts on Wednesday night and Thursday.
Sunday evening, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued mandatory evacuations for people living along the coastline of South Carolina, as Hurricane Dorian is expected to affect the state by midweek. State troopers began the reversal of all lanes on I-26 out of Charleston Monday morning wiht evacuations taking effect at 12 p.m.
“Water, water, water is our concern,” said Panovich, urging anyone told to evacuate to listen. “You run from the water, you hide from the wind.”
North Carolina issued a state of emergency ahead of potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency because of the threat of Hurricane Dorian.
Later on Saturday, the city of Charleston declared a state of emergency as well, to ensure the city is fully prepared for emergency operations. The Municipal Emergency Operations Center will be activated Sunday at 8 a.m. and will remain open as needed throughout the storm.
According to the National Weather Service, there is an increasing risk of strong winds and dangerous storm surge along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina during the middle of the week.
The National Hurricane Center said slow weakening is forecast, but fluctuations in intensity could occur over the next couple of days. Nevertheless, Dorian is expected to stay a powerful hurricane over the next few days, according to the NHC.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Grand Bahama and the Abacos Islands in the northwestern Bahamas and Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for North of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet and North of Ponte Vedra Beach to South Santee River.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for North of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for North of Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach and Lake Okeechobee.
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Lantana to Altamaha Sound.
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for North of Deerfield Beach to south of Lantana and Altamaha Sound to South Santee River.
Swells are likely to begin affecting the east-facing shores of the Bahamas, the Florida east coast, and the southeastern United States coast during the next few days. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Flooding will be a major concern for Florida. Rainfall rates, combined with storm surge, could result in life-threatening flash floods. Dorian is expected to produce 12 to 24 inches, isolated 30 inches, of rainfall totals for the Northwestern Bahamas alone.
NHC says Dorian is expected to produce 5 to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches, for the Coastal Carolinas.
Panovich said everyone living along the Southeast coast should be paying attention. The track could shift.
“Residents in these areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place and not focus on the exact forecast track of Dorian’s center,” according to the National Hurricane Center.