US coast braced for Hurricane Dorian
An estimated three million people in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas were warned to evacuate.
Hurricane Dorian has raked the south eastern US coast with howling, window-rattling winds and sideways rain, knocking out power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.
Dorian pushed northward towards North Carolina’s dangerously exposed Outer Banks.
Leaving at least 20 people dead in its wake in the Bahamas, Dorian swept past Florida on Wednesday at a relatively safe distance, grazed Georgia overnight and then began hugging the South Carolina coastline with more serious effects.
It was a Category 2, blowing at 110mph – a far cry from the Category 5 that mauled the Bahamas, but still dangerous, and about one million people were warned to evacuate in the Carolinas.
“Get to safety and stay there,” North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said.
“This won’t be a brush-by. Whether it comes ashore or not, the eye of the storm will be close enough to cause extensive damage in North Carolina.”
At least four deaths were reported, all involving men in Florida and North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the storm.
The National Hurricane Centre’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 US coast like a boxer’s chin.
Dorian was then expected to peel away from the shoreline.
The National Hurricane Centre forecast as much as 15in of rain for the coastal Carolinas, with flash-flooding likely.
In Charleston, South Carolina, a historic port city of handsome antebellum homes on a peninsula that is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, Dorian toppled some 150 trees, flooded roads and brought down power lines, officials said.
In an assault that began over Labour Day weekend, Dorian pounded the Bahamas with Category 5 winds up to 185mph, obliterating entire neighbourhoods and triggering a humanitarian crisis.
More than 1,500 people sought refuge in 28 shelters in South Carolina, where rain began falling late on Wednesday in the historic port city of Charleston, situated on a peninsula that is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms.
As Dorian crept dangerously closer to the city, the wind picked up, sending sheets of rain sideways.
Thunder boomed in the night sky, and power flickered on and off.
More than two dozen streets were closed by flooding in the city, where shops and restaurants were boarded up with wood and corrugated metal.
Dorian also apparently spun off at least one tornado in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, damaging several homes, city spokesman Patrick Dowling said.
No injuries were reported.
Hundreds of shelter animals from coastal South Carolina arrived in Delaware ahead of the storm.
The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, said 200 were airlifted early on Tuesday from shelters in danger of flooding.
About 150 more were expected to arrive via land.
Hundreds of thousands of people were also ordered off the Georgia coast.