Hurricane Dorian: Cooper orders evacuation of all barrier islands as storm moves toward NC

Posted September 3, 2019 5:46 a.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2019 12:09 a.m. EDT

Things to know now:

  • At 11 p.m., Dorian remains a Category 2 hurricane with winds at 110 mph and is expected to arrive in North Carolina sometime Thursday.
  • A storm surge warning has been extended from Jupiter Inlet, Fla. to Surf City, NC
  • A hurricane warning has been issued from north of the Savannah, Ga. river to Surf City, NC
  • Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered an evacuation of all barrier islands along North Carolina's coast, effective 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Hurricane Dorian is expected to brush against the North Carolina coast Thursday and Friday, the National Hurricane Center’s Tuesday evening forecast shows.

An updated forecast released at 11 p.m. shows the Category 2 storm crawling north away from Grand Bahama Island at 6 mph. At least seven people died in the Bahamas from the storm.

The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, was approaching the Florida coast. It's expected to move up the East Coast and reach Wilmington as early as Thursday.

“This is going to be a Thursday, Thursday night and Friday event for North Carolina,” WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Latest track

A hurricane watch was issued from South Santee River, S.C., to the North Carolina/Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. A watch is often issued 48 hours before tropical storm-force winds are first expected.

Potential for power outages

A storm surge watch was extended to include north of Surf City, NC to Posquoson, Va. That includes the Neuse and Pamlico rivers along with the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. That means water moving inland from the coastline could be life-threatening during the next 48 hours.

A tropical storm watch issued for many southeast counties, including Cumberland and Johnston, means winds could gust up to 73 mph when Dorian gets closer to the coast on Thursday. More than 4 inches of rain could fall there.

"I urge residents to take these orders and this storm seriously," Cooper said after issuing his mandatory order for all North Carolina barrier islands. "It takes time to evacuate the barrier islands, so now is the time to act."

Rainfall potential

The following areas are under evacuation orders:

  • Hyde County ordered all visitors off Ocracoke Island as of 5 a.m. Tuesday. Residents must leave 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 begins Wednesday at 6 a.m.
  • 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.

"This storm is strong, and it is relentless," Cooper said during an afternoon news conference. ""We must be ready."

Evacuations were moving smoothly Tuesday afternoon, Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said, noting 900 people and 460 vehicles had already been moved off Ocracoke Island.

Dorian is about 200 miles wide, Gardner said.

The National Hurricane Center’s cone that predicts where the storm could move shows possible landfall on South Carolina or North Carolina. If Dorian makes landfall on North Carolina, it would be east of Interstate 95, Gardner said.

“You have to remember, this storm is enormous,” she said. “We’re going to see rain well inland, most likely at least to Greensboro and Charlotte. We’re going to see winds gusting up to 60 mph with this storm on Thursday into Friday across parts of our viewing area.”

Hurricane winds are usually strongest on the eastern sides of their centers.

“We may end up being spared the strongest winds, but we’re still talking about a Category 2 storm that’s hugging the coast,” Gardner said.

North Carolina will see its first bands of rain from the storm Wednesday night in southeastern parts of the state. Rain will move into the Triangle on Thursday morning and into Virginia on Thursday afternoon.

Winds are expected to gust up to 60 mph as the storm hits North Carolina. Dorian is expected to weaken to a Category 1 hurricane by Friday night.

North Carolina’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated and is operating around the clock until the storm passes.

Swift water rescue teams and 300 members of the North Carolina National Guard have been activated to assist with storm response.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is staging items for hurricane recovery at Fort Bragg so they can be deployed quickly after the storm passes, said Mike Sprayberry, state emergency management director.

Utilities also have repair crews staged at various locations to move into hard-hit areas and restore power as efficiently as possible, Sprayberry said.

The state Department of Transportation has thousands of barricades, road closed and high water signs to deploy on flooded roads, along with hundreds of pieces of equipment and chainsaws to clear blocked roads, Trogdon said.

Recent cash-flow problems at DOT that have forced layoffs won't interfere with the agency's ability to respond to Dorian and keep highways open, he said.

"Response and recovery are going to be our No. 1 priority," he said.

New Hanover County government buildings are closed until further notice as the county prepares for the coming storm.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington plans to evacuate students Tuesday. Students will go to UNC Greensboro and UNC Charlotte.

Fayetteville State University canceled classes after 5 p.m. Wednesday, while East Carolina University canceled classes after 3 p.m. Thursday.

In the Triangle, workers were preparing a shelter in Durham for evacuees in the former Sears at Northgate Mall. That shelter will allow pets. Cooper said a second large shelter might be opened at the former Macy's store at the mall.

A shelter that will open in Clayton will have 100 beds for evacuees with special medical needs, the governor said.

Charlotte Motor Speedway will open its campgrounds for evacuees from the coast, and the SPCA of Wake County says it will take dogs from evacuated shelters.

President Donald Trump is expected to approve a federal disaster declaration, which would shorten the time it takes North Carolina to get aid after Dorian passes.