Dorian flattened homes and wiped out neighborhoods in the Bahamas, leaving 30 people dead. It then closed in on the United States, where five deaths have been blamed on the storm so far.
Before it lost some of its strength early Friday, Dorian caused flooding in parts of the Carolinas, spawned a number of tornadoes and left more than 271,000 customers in the dark, officials said.
In eastern North Carolina, Dorian is producing wind gusts near hurricane-force. The state is seeing four to eight inches of rain with some local totals of as much as 10 inches, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.
Though the storm has weakened from a Category 2 into a strong Category 1 storm, Brink said there’s not much difference for North Carolina between the two in terms of impact of strong winds and storm surge.
Dorian is now 30 miles southwest of Cape Lookout, NC, with sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Dorian has North Carolina in its sights,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. “We need people to hunker down and stay safe. We don’t need people leaving their homes.”
More than 10 million people are under hurricane or tropical storm warnings Friday, which is forecast to be Dorian’s last day on the US coast.
A series of watches and warnings
The storm surge began late Thursday night along the North Carolina and southeast Virginia coasts.
A hurricane warning is in effect from the South Santee River to the North Carolina and Virginia border, the hurricane center said. A tornado watch was in effect until 7 a.m. Friday for the North Carolina coast from just above Wilmington to Virginia Beach, according to the National Weather Service.
Just Thursday, nearly two dozen tornadoes were reported from the outer bands of Dorian. They toppled mobile homes and left debris strewn all over.
Tornadoes along the coast
Tornadoes are common in the thunderstorm bands of hurricanes and tropical storms.
North Carolina resident Byron Cox was in his mobile home in Emerald Isle when the tornado approached. His home was still standing, but his father’s was destroyed, he said Thursday.
“I remember hearing a loud noise. The next thing I know, the trailer started shaking. … It shook probably 10-15 seconds, real hard,” Cox, 37, said.
“All of a sudden I didn’t feel it (any) more. I looked outside, and the tornado … (was) going through the back. … Debris flying everywhere. Never saw anything like this in my entire life.”
“I saw the circular clouds and was going to take a little video, and the funnel came out of nowhere,” he tweeted.
South Carolina turns to recovery
Charleston’s mayor says that efforts to recover begin Friday.
“Yes, today was Dorian Day in Charleston, and I am happy to bid him farewell,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said Thursday. “To the hundreds of officials, and the outstanding citizens of Charleston, thank you. Tomorrow, we all unite as Team Charleston to recover.”
Authorities in Charleston are working to address power outages, downed trees and flooded roadways.
CNN’s Drew Griffin reported from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Madeline Holcombe and Steve Almasy reported from Atlanta.