CHARLESTON, S.C. — Hurricane Dorian began to pull away from the southeastern coastline of the United States on Friday after bringing severe flooding to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, making landfall as a Category 1 storm and sending residents across a string of remote, low-lying barrier islands scrambling to their attics to avoid rising water from powerful storm surges and heavy rain.
The hurricane’s eye reached Cape Hatteras, N.C., shortly after 8:30 a.m. EDT with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph after days of skirting Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas and earlier pounding the Bahamas as a Category 5, causing catastrophic devastation and killing at least 30 people.
The search for victims and survivors in the Bahamas continued, five days after Dorian devastated the Caribbean island nation with 185-mph winds that obliterated countless homes.
Hundreds of Bahamians gathered Friday at the Marsh Harbour port on Great Abaco — one of the areas most devastated by the storm — in the hope of boarding a ferry to Nassau, the capital.
There were no government-organized evacuations yet, The Associated Press reported, but the Royal Bahamas Defense Force helped people board a 139-foot ferry that had come to pick up its employees and had room for an additional 160 people.
A British navy ship moored offshore has begun to deliver essential items, including ration packs, water and blankets, and an array of organizations and companies, including the United Nations, Royal Caribbean cruise line and American Airlines, have mobilized to send in food, water, generators, roof tarps, diapers, flashlights and other supplies.
As the eye of the storm churned about 330 miles south-southwest of Nantucket, Mass., officials in North Carolina expressed relief Friday afternoon that the damage was not worse — as well as concern that hundreds of residents might be trapped on Ocracoke, a narrow sliver of an island between Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, after water inundated homes.
“Finally, Hurricane Dorian has left North Carolina — and we’re getting a look at the damage that it brought,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a Friday afternoon news conference.
About 800 people remained on the island during the storm, Cooper said, and many homes and buildings were under water.
The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted a 79-year-old man in need of immediate medical attention from the island, and Hyde County officials announced plans to airlift any residents who needed to evacuate from Ocracoke to a shelter in Washington County, where they would have access to food, power and medical supplies.
“If you wish to leave start preparing now,” Hyde County instructed residents on Twitter. “We will release times to go to the airport when we have it.”
Early Friday, the National Weather Service in Morehead City declared a flash-flood emergency for Hyde and Dare counties, warning residents that rapidly rising floodwaters from the Pamlico Sound were expected to inundate the first floors of homes and urging them to retreat to a higher level.
While South Carolina and the lower coast of North Carolina were spared the brunt of the storm as it churned offshore, there were widespread flooding and multiple tornadoes. Coastal highways and shopping thoroughfares flooded. Winds blew portions of the roof off the Bogue Shores hotel in Atlantic Beach. A Cedar Island gas station was submerged under several feet of water.
Across the Carolinas, more than 220,000 homes and businesses were without power.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday lifted the mandatory evacuation orders for all coastal residents, urging them to be patient and expect lengthy travel times, blocked roadways and detours as they made their way back to the coast.
As cleanup crews fanned out across the coast to clear roads of downed trees and debris, power companies worked to repair power lines, and businesses in the historic city of Charleston and along the coast began to reopen.
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