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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hurricane Dorian hasn’t yet made landfall but the Carolinas are already feeling the brunt of what the storm has to offer with tornadoes, heavy rain and high winds impacting the coastline Thursday.
At 2 p.m., Dorian was at a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 mph as it spins about 60 miles south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and 115 miles south-southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Despite the downgrade, Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich said the impacts for the Carolinas remain unchanged, and you shouldn’t get caught up in the wind speed.
“It doesn’t really change the impacts at all,” Panovich said. “It’s really not that big of a deal; we’re talking about 5 miles per hour.”
One thing that has changed is the risk of tornadoes.
The National Weather Service reported multiple touchdowns across southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina. Panovich said the tornado threat will continue throughout the day Thursday.
“It causes things to spin up ahead and northeast of the storm,” Panovich said. “So everything ahead and to the right of Dorian on the map will have a big threat.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the state has over 200 vehicles, boats, and crews ready for rescue missions in eastern North Carolina.
“Hurricane Dorian is ready to unleash its fury on our state,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “This won’t be a brush-by, and even if it is, the eye of the storm will be close enough to cause extensive damage in North Carolina.”
First Warn Forecaster Larry Sprinkle said some areas along the coast near Charleston could see nearly 9 feet of storm surge during high tide Thursday. Forecasters believe the storm is likely to make landfall late Thursday into Friday. Panovich said Dorian could actually make multiple landfalls in North Carolina
“Dorian probably could make landfall in three places,” Panovich said. “As it moves to the northeast, those parts jut out into the ocean and they’re able to be hit by the storm as it pushes in that direction. That’s why we’re probably going to see a landfall in those areas.”
South Carolina Emergency Management reported over 200,000 power outages related to the storm around 9 a.m. Thursday. In North Carolina, the number is around 3,000.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington shared a video from Pender County where a tornado touched down near a fire department Thursday morning. There were multiple tornado warnings in effect in coastal areas as the outer bands of Dorian move across southeastern North Carolina.
The NOAA reported wind gusts of 75-80 mph in and around Charleston Harbor. A wind gust of 86 mph was recorded in Winyah Bay, South Carolina.
The biggest impacts from Dorian in the Carolinas will be storm surge and flooding, Panovich said.
“As we go through the day, the surge and high tide, water is really coming into Myrtle Beach and tonight it will come into Wilmington and tomorrow eastern North Carolina,” Panovich explained.
By 9 a.m., several roads in the Charleston area were closed due to flooding and high tide isn’t expected until early Thursday afternoon. That could make things significantly worse before Dorian finally moves out.
In Charlotte, Sprinkle said we’ll see minimal to no impact from Dorian as it moves up the coast. Areas east of I-77 could see wind gusts around 30-40 mph, Sprinkle said. Those areas include Monroe, Matthews, Mint Hill, Albemarle and toward Rockingham and Wadesboro.
Hurricane Dorian latest conditions
As of the 2 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center
LOCATION: ABOUT 60 MILES EAST OF MYRTLE BEACH, SC
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS: 110 MPH
MOVEMENT: NORTH-NORTHEAST AT 8 MPH
Panovich said confidence in the models means forecasters can be more focused on the impacts when the storm does eventually reach the Carolina coast.
The high risk along the coast could result in 5-10 feet of storm surge, 10-15 inches of rain, and 50-75 mph winds as the storm churns north.
There is some good news for those that are inland, as Panovich said Dorian won’t be a major wind event. The impacts will be spread further out, but the highest impact will be on the immediate coast.
Panovich said the storm will cause sound-side flooding when it reaches the Outer Banks and affect areas that were devastated by Hurricane Florence, such as New Bern and Havelock.
The storm will move north up the coast and reach Myrtle Beach by Thursday night into Friday. Dorian was expected to reach the Outer Banks Friday morning, with a possible landfall coming near Hatteras as some of the models start to disagree on the storm’s exact track.
On Sunday evening, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued mandatory evacuations for people living along the coastline of South Carolina. State troopers began the reversal of all lanes on I-26 out of Charleston Monday morning with 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 storm threat.
On Saturday, the city of Charleston declared a state of emergency as well to ensure the city was fully prepared for emergency operations. The Municipal Emergency Operations Center activated Sunday at 8 a.m. and will remain open as needed throughout the storm.
According to the National Weather Service, there was 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.
INTERACTIVE MAP: Track Hurricane Dorian
Watches and warnings
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for…
* South Santee River SC to Poquoson VA
* Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds
* Neuse and Pamlico Rivers
* Hampton Roads
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…
* Savannah River to the North Carolina/Virginia border
* Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
* North Carolina/Virginia border to Fenwick Island DE
* Chesapeake Bay from Drum Point southward
* Tidal Potomac south of Cobb Island
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…
* Woods Hole to Sagamore Beach MA
* Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard MA
“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.