Outer Banks tourists told to leave as Hurricane Dorian nears NC coast, US

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— Dorian, still life-threatening but now a Category 4 hurricane, is moving closer to the United States after wreaking havoc in the Bahamas on Monday morning. Dorian is already creating strong rip currents off North Carolina’s coast, but it shouldn’t impact our state until Wednesday night or Thursday.

A 11 a.m. updated forecast track from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm approaching North Carolina’s southeast tip as a Category 2 hurricane later this week. According to the track, Dorian could make landfall in the Outer Banks early Thursday.

This is an improvement from the 8 a.m. update, which showed Dorian hitting North Carolina as a Category 3 storm.

Dorian 11 am Monday update

Dorian is expected to turn to the north late Monday as it moves up the coastline. Dorian could weaken to a Category 3 storm by Wednesday as it loses intensity.

By Wednesday night or Thursday, Dorian could impact South Carolina and North Carolina, dropping heavy rain along the the coast and bringing strong winds.

Cape Lookout in the Outer Banks was already making plans for the hurricane. Visitor centers, public parks and the Cape Lookout lighthouse closed to the public Sunday and will remain closed until after the storm, according to a post from the National Park Service. All islands will be evacuated by noon on Tuesday.

Tracking the Tropics

Charlotte Motor Speedway announced that it would open its campgrounds for evacuees from the coast, and the SPCA of Wake County announced it would be taking in dogs from evacuated shelters on Monday afternoon.

North Carolina timing

Hurricane Dorian could make landfall in the Outer Banks as a Category 2 hurricane, though some forecasts show it turning off to the east. Even if Dorian doesn’t make landfall on North Carolina’s coast, effects like strong winds and heavy rains will be felt Wednesday through Thursday, with the strongest impacts Thursday night and Friday morning.

Dorian impacts

A few lines in a scatter model indicate that Dorian could make landfall in North Carolina, while other tracks show the storm moving off into the Atlantic Ocean.

The coast and the Triangle are both within the storm’s cone, meaning landfall is still possible there. “Since the cone includes the coast, and Raleigh, we have to keep a close eye on this,” WRAL meteorologist Peta Sheerwood said.

Depending on the storm’s path, central North Carolina could see tropical storm force winds around 45 or 50 mph by 2 p.m. Thursday. North Carolina’s coast could experience even stronger winds of 70 to 90 mph.

Chance for tropical storm force winds

Sheerwood said rainfall totals “look impressive,” with some coastal areas expected to get as much as 10 inches. Raleigh could get up to 1.75 inches of rain, while Wilmington and Beaufort could get almost 8 inches. Officials were North Carolina and South Carolina are already asking beachgoers to stay out of the ocean Monday, as Dorian is kicking up rip currents there.

On Friday, the storm is expected to turn and move out to sea.

Rainfall estimates

Preparations underway

From Florida to North Carolina, residents and government officials have been preparing for possible impacts of Dorian for days, even as the official forecast has the center of the storm staying offshore.

The Category 5 hurricane’s nearly unprecedented strength has people aware that even a tiny error in the forecast could be catastrophic.

Hurricane Dorian Updates: Storm Strengthens on Path to Strike Florida

“We may not do anything. But we have to be ready for it,” said Neil Baxley, commander of emergency services in coastal South Carolina’s Beaufort County. “We are deep in the error cone.”‘

The gas lines and people queued up with carts outside grocery stores weren’t seen Sunday along the southeast U.S. coast.

Instead, people were watching and waiting to see the destruction from the northern Bahamas, where Dorian made landfall on the Abaco Islands.

“I’m thanking God now that it has turned a little more to the east. But that’s a forecast. We never know,” said Kevin Browning, who was at the Vero Beach Home Depot looking for supplies after putting up his hurricane shutters Friday. “I feel for the Bahamas and I’m praying for them.”

Some evacuations have already begun in Florida, where the governor suspended tolls. Father up the coast, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster held a short news conference where he wouldn’t say when he might make a decision on evacuations and the main goal seemed to be to promise officials were on top of things.

South Carolina has ordered evacuations in each of the past three hurricane seasons and with just one storm making landfall during that time — Michael in 2016 — there is storm weariness in the state.

McMaster asked residents to stay tuned.

“We don’t have a solid prediction as to where it might turn, where it might not turn when it will get here. But we assure you we have the best minds and the most experienced and talented people working around the clock,” the governor said.