North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents Wednesday to adhere to evacuation orders and finish last-minute storm preparations as the coast of the Carolinas braces for Hurricane Dorian, a Category 3 storm whose center is projected to come within 40 miles off Charleston, S.C.
“Today is the day to finish preparing,” Cooper said Wednesday afternoon. “Do not underestimate this dangerous storm. Listen to your local emergency officials and leave now if they have ordered evacuations.”
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 5 a.m. ET Thursday that the Category 3 storm’s maximum sustained winds were at 115 mph. Dorian was located about 80 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., moving north at 8 mph.
The hurricane was a Category 3 storm Tuesday, then dropped to Category 2 before regaining strength Wednesday night, according to the NHC. Hurricane-force winds were extending outward up to 60 miles from the center, while tropical storm force winds were extending outward up to 195 miles.
“Dorian could maintain this intensity for about 12 hours or so, but guidance is showing shear increasing, and that should result in gradual weakening,” Lixion Avila, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center, told The Charleston Post and Courier.
The hurricane is expected to hit Charleston by midday Thursday. Hurricane force winds are expected the thrash the coast by early Thursday. The paper reported that forecasters predicted high tide of about 10 feet in the city by 2 a.m. The streets flood there at 7 feet, the report said.
A federal state of emergency was issued in North Carolina. Nearly 8,000 troops across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and nearly 400 North Carolina National Guard soldiers are also positioned in armories across the state.
Cooper issued a mandatory state evacuation for barrier islands along the entire North Carolina coast that went into effect 8 a.m. Wednesday. More than two dozen counties have declared states of emergency, the governor’s office said.
A flash flood watch is in effect in parts of central and all of eastern North Carolina through Friday. Shelters are opening to accommodate evacuees. A large state shelter opened last night in Durham—an inland city located adjacent to state’s capital, Raleigh.
Cooper toured C3 church in Clayton, N.C., which was turned into a medical facility for evacuees who need constant medical attention. Cooper said the church represents the state’s partnership with non-profits and churches in eastern North Carolina to make sure people are taken care of during the storm. The shelter provides a place where nursing home residents could go in the case of an evacuation, he said.
The state’s medical examiner’s office announced the first storm-related fatality in North Carolina. An 85-year-old in Columbus County died Monday after falling off a ladder while preparing his house for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.
“We really are very sorry about that and thinking about his family. It reminds us that preparations for storms can really be a dangerous activity,” Cooper said, according to Raleigh’s The News & Observer. He warned residents to take caution when boarding up windows and carrying out other measures to prepare for the storm.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 21 counties Wednesday morning and ordered residents to evacuate amid high winds, rain and slight flooding as Dorian krept up the coast. Kemp expanded a state of emergency to include nine additional counties by the afternoon and reopened highways to expedite access for rescuers, supplies and equipment after the hurricane passes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.