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Things to know:
- Hurricane Dorian weakened early Wednesday, with maximum wind speeds reaching 105 mph.
- The storm is expected to move up the North Carolina coast Thursday through Friday as a Category 2 hurricane.
- Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for a large number of N.C. island communities, including those in Hyde, Dare, Carteret and New Hanover counties.
Hurricane Dorian is expected to move up the North Carolina coast as a Category 2 storm, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday morning.
The storm, which was a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday, weakened slightly with maximum wind speeds reaching 105 mph. It was moving northwest at 8 mph and is expected to get “dangerously close” to Florida’s east coast and the Georgia coast on Wednesday.
Dorian’s center is forecast to move near or over the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts Thursday through Friday morning.
“It’s a little slower getting here but then really picks up speed quickly as it moves across the coast of North Carolina,” WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. “That is the best news that we could hope for.”
By comparison, Hurricane Florence stalled over the North Carolina coast for three days. Storm surge reached 13 feet, and 30 inches of rain fell.
A hurricane warning was issued from north of the Savannah River in Georgia to Surf City, North Carolina. A hurricane watch was issued South Santee River, South Carolina, to the North Carolina/Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.
Cumberland, Edgecombe, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Nash, Northampton, Sampson, Wayne and Wilson counties are under a tropical storm watch, which means winds from 39 mph to 73 mph are possible in the next 48 hours.
A flash flood watch will be in effect for Cumberland, Edgecombe, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Nash, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne, and Wilson counties from 4 a.m. Thursday to 12 p.m. Friday.
Cape Lookout to Duck could see 3 to 5 feet of storm surge, and water levels could rise before strong winds come, the National Hurricane Center said.
Coastal communities in North Carolina and South Carolina are expected to see 5 to 10 inches of rain, with some areas seeing 15 inches.
The following areas are under evacuation orders:
- Hyde County ordered all visitors off Ocracoke Island as of 5 a.m. Tuesday and residents off the island by 5 a.m. Wednesday. Ferries will waive their fees to get visitors off the island.
- All visitors had to leave Dare County by noon Tuesday. A mandatory evacuation order for all Dare County residents begins 6 a.m. Wednesday.
- Carteret County began a voluntary evacuation at 8 a.m. Tuesday, and a mandatory evacuation for coastal communities begins at noon Wednesday.
- New Hanover County beaches are under a mandatory evacuation order as of 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Officials urged people to get to safety before the storm arrives.
“This storm is strong, and it is relentless,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday afternoon. “We must be ready.”
Some coastal residents said they had prepared to stay in their homes through Dorian.
“You’ve prepared mentally and physically for, how long have we known about Dorian,” one resident said. “So you get all your ducks in a row and just wait and do a lot of praying.”
Davis Beachwear in Atlantic Beach has been open since 1951 and has seen its fair share of hurricanes. On Wednesday morning, the family was boarding up its shop.
The Dare County Sheriff’s Office still people would still be able to access the Outer Banks to secure their property.
Workers at the Sea Foam Motel in Nags Head were readying the building for the storm.
“The occupancy obviously goes down because everybody has to get out of here, try to get ahead of the traffic,” Tracey Zimmerman said. “Hopefully most people will rebook and come back next week.”
In the Triangle area, shelters were opening for evacuees. One in Durham is pet-friendly, and one in Clayton is for people with special medical needs.
The U.S. government granted Cooper’s request for a federal disaster declaration for North Carolina, which will speed federal aid to the state. It will bring more FEMA and military personnel as well as resources for preparation and relief efforts.
Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas, where seven people died as the storm moved through this week.
Residents called the damage “apocalyptic.”
Airports and roads were flooded as rescues began on the islands.