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Leaving at least 20 people dead in its wake in the devastated Bahamas, Dorian made its way up the Eastern Seaboard, sweeping past Florida on Wednesday at a relatively safe distance. From there, the storm apparently grazed Georgia, then hugged the South Carolina coast with more serious effects.
At noon, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Dorian was located 45 miles east/southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, and 275 miles south of Raleigh. The storm was briefly downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane but went back up to a Category 3 with sustained winds at 115 mph.
An estimated 3 million people in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas were warned to evacuate as the storm closed in with the potential for life-threatening storm surge. Navy ships were ordered to ride it out at sea, and military aircraft were moved inland.
At least two deaths were reported on the U.S. mainland, in Florida and North Carolina, both involving men who fell while getting ready for the storm.
The National Hurricane Center’s projected track showed Dorian passing near or over the Outer Banks on Friday, lashing the thin line of islands that stick out from the U.S. coast like a boxer’s chin. Dorian was then expected to peel away from the shoreline.
Atlantic Beach residents hoping for the best but preparing for the worst
About 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast alone.
“It’s a terrible way to live,” Debbie Pagan said. “We have the whole month of September and October to go. How would you like to be living on pins and needles?”
Another Tybee islander, Sandy Cason, said: “The uncertainty and the unknown are the worst part. Just not knowing what’s going to be here when you get back.”
Along King Street in historic Charleston, South Carolina, dozens of shops and restaurants typically bustling with tourists were boarded up, plywood and corrugated metal over windows and doors, as the flood-prone downtown area braced for high water.
Mark Russell, an Army veteran who has lived in South Carolina much of his life, went to a hurricane shelter right away. As for those who hesitated to do so, he said: “If they go through it one time, maybe they’ll understand.”
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Copyright © 2019 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.