As Hurricane Dorian gets closer to NC, public schools, including Wake, cancel classes

Posted September 4, 2019 5:17 a.m. EDT
Updated September 5, 2019 1:45 a.m. EDT

Things to know:

  • Wake County and other eastern areas are under a tropical storm warning. Full list of weather alerts.
  • Wake and Johnston Public Schools will close Thursday. View complete closings and delays.
  • Hurricane Dorian is expected to impact the North Carolina coast as a Category 2 storm. Wednesday night, it increased to Category 3.
  • Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for all barrier islands on the North Carolina coast, and at least 12 counties have partial or full evacuation notices.
  • A Columbus County man is the state's first Dorian-related death.

As Hurricane Dorian gets closer to North Carolina, several public school districts have decided to cancel classes in anticipation of the storm that left several dead in the Bahamas as it inched across the warm Atlantic Ocean waters.

Wake, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Franklin, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Nash, Sampson, Wayne and Wilson counties were placed under a tropical storm warning at 11 a.m. Wednesday until further notice. That means tropical storm conditions, with winds between 39 and 73 mph, are expected within 36 hours.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. Wednesday update that Dorian's maximum sustained winds were up to 115 mph, making it a Category 3 storm. Meteorologist Mike Maze said with the storm moving over warmer water, it was possible Dorian could briefly attain category 3 status before closing in on our state Thursday evening and Thursday night as category 2.

Dorian's track shifted slightly west, and it's forecast to move over or just west of Cape Lookout at 8 a.m. Friday with sustained winds at 100 mph.

By Wednesday evening, the hurricane was moving parallel to the Florida coast at 7 mph.

Tropical Storm warning

“It’s a little slower getting here, but then really picks up speed quickly as it moves across the coast of North Carolina,” WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. “That is the best news that we could hope for.”

By comparison, Hurricane Florence stalled over the North Carolina coast for three days. Storm surge reached 13 feet, and 30 inches of rain fell.

A hurricane warning was in effect for north of the Savannah River in Georgia up to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

A storm surge warning was in effect for north of Port Canaveral, Fla., to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds and the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.

Cape Lookout to Duck could see 4 to 6 feet of storm surge, and water levels could rise before strong winds come, the National Hurricane Center said.

Coastal communities in North Carolina and South Carolina are expected to see 5 to 10 inches of rain, with some areas seeing 15 inches.

The following areas are under evacuation orders:

  • Hyde County ordered all visitors off Ocracoke Island as of 5 a.m. Tuesday and residents off the island by 5 a.m. Wednesday. Ferries will waive their fees to get visitors off the island.
  • All visitors had to leave Dare County by noon Tuesday. A mandatory evacuation order for all Dare County residents began 6 a.m. Wednesday.
  • Carteret County began a voluntary evacuation at 8 a.m. Tuesday, and a mandatory evacuation for coastal communities begins at noon Wednesday.
  • New Hanover County beaches are under a mandatory evacuation order as of 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Officials urged people to get to safety before the storm arrives.

"Hurricane Dorian has its sights set on North Carolina. We will be ready, and we will not underestimate the damage this storm can cause," Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday. "North Carolinians are used to facing storms, but please don't let familiarity get in the way of good judgment."

Cooper said an 85-year-old Columbus County man was the first Dorian-related death in North Carolina. The man was getting his home ready for the hurricane when he fell off a ladder and died from his injuries, the governor said.

"It reminds us that preparation for storms can be a dangerous activity," he said, reminding people to exercise caution before, during and after the storm.

Some coastal residents said they had prepared to stay in their homes through Dorian.

“You’ve prepared mentally and physically for, how long have we known about Dorian,” one resident said. “So you get all your ducks in a row and just wait and do a lot of praying.”

Davis Beachwear in Atlantic Beach has been open since 1951 and has seen its fair share of hurricanes. On Wednesday morning, the family that owns the shop was boarding it up.

Davis Beachwear in Atlantic Beach

The Dare County Sheriff's Office said people would still be able to access the Outer Banks to secure their property.

Workers at the Sea Foam Motel in Nags Head were readying the building for the storm.

"The occupancy obviously goes down because everybody has to get out of here, try to get ahead of the traffic," Tracey Zimmerman said. "Hopefully, most people will rebook and come back next week."

In the Triangle area, shelters were opening for evacuees. A former Sears store in Northgate Mall in Durham is pet-friendly, and one in Clayton is for people with special medical needs. Cooper said a former Macy's store at Northgate Mall and the Friday Center in Chapel Hill also are being considered for "mega-shelters" if local shelters along the coast fill up and more room is needed.

The U.S. government granted Cooper's request for a federal disaster declaration for North Carolina, which will speed federal aid to the state. It will bring more Federal Emergency Management Agency and military personnel as well as resources for preparation and relief efforts.

Nearly 400 North Carolina National Guard troops have been activated to assist with storm response. They are being staged at nine locations and have 138 vehicles and 19 aircraft at their disposal, officials said.

Swift water rescue teams are being moved from central and western North Carolina to the east to be in position for any flash flooding that traps people in their homes or vehicles, said Mike Sprayberry, the state's emergency management director. Other teams are coming from out of state, including one from Vermont, he said.

Anyone who needs information about storm preparations can visit or for road conditions. Text updates can be obtained by texting NCDorian to 898211, and hearing-impaired residents can call 888-892-1162 toll-free for assistance.

Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas, where seven people died as the storm moved through this week.

Residents called the damage “apocalyptic.”

Airports and roads were flooded as rescues began on the islands.