As Hurricane Dorian strengthened Wednesday and moved within 100 miles of the Carolinas, those on the coast continued with last-minute preparations.
Workers in coastal towns made moves to protect their properties, vacationers squeezed in a few final moments on the beach before abandoning their long-planned getaways, and a little farther inland, North Carolina’s first storm-related fatality was reported in Columbus County.
Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters in a news conference Wednesday that an 85-year-old man fell from a ladder on Monday while helping his family prepare for the storm. He died from his injuries the same day. The man’s name was not immediately released.
Meteorologists told Guilford County residents to be vigilant about Hurricane Dorian, but said they don’t expect much impact locally.
Meteorologist Mike Strickler said Wednesday afternoon that forecasts show Guilford County getting less than a tenth of an inch of rain and wind gusts of up to 30 mph.
If the storm takes a more westward track those totals could increase slightly. Strickler said because Guilford County remains on the outer edge of the storm it is important for residents to continue monitoring forecasts.
Meteorologists said impacts to the east, primarily south and east of the Triangle, include wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph with heavy rainfall of 4-8 inches. The strongest winds are expected this evening and Friday morning.
“Don’t let your guard down completely,” Strickler said. “Other counties will see fairly significant impacts not that far from the Triad.”
Weaker but bigger since it slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph winds earlier this week and killed at least 20, the now Category 2 Hurricane Dorian was moving off the Georgia coast at 8 mph late Wednesday afternoon as it crept up the Southeastern seaboard. Forecasters said it had maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and was centered about 130 miles south of Charleston.
A hurricane warning covered about 500 miles of coastline, and authorities warned about 3 million residents to get away before the water and wind rose with Dorian’s approach.
‘If it’s coming, it’s coming’
In Otway, a Carteret County community near Harker’s Island on Wednesday, Chelsie Van Dyke was on her third day of getting the Walker NAPA Auto Parts store ready for the storm.
Van Dyke and her two daughters, Briyanna and Miranda, looked like pros helping Van Dyke’s co-worker, Ben Payne, hang 4-by-8-foot sheets of board across the windows of the store. The red neon “OPEN” sign still flashed in the window, and customers dropped in for last-minute supplies as Dorian inched closer.
As they worked, the National Weather Service sent out a hurricane warning for the region.
“It doesn’t matter how much preparation you do,” Van Dyke said. “If it’s coming, it’s coming.”
It’s coming for vactioners, too
Farther north in Nags Head, roads were mostly empty — and the beach even emptier.
But just before noon, a few surfers waited for waves near Jennette’s Pier, most of which was destroyed in 2003 during Hurricane Isabel.
And about two miles south, near the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Kevin and Christine Fox had arranged chairs and coolers in the middle of the beach to watch the waves crash in front of them. The Foxes had the beach to themselves — nobody within 200 yards.
Kevin Fox said this was supposed to be a week of vacation, until the threat of Dorian intervened. They received word of the order to evacuate on Tuesday but, Christine Fox said, “It’s not like the police come knocking on your door, asking you to leave.”
Fox said she was accustomed to hurricanes, having grown up in the Florida panhandle. And besides, she said, forecasters weren’t calling for Dorian to arrive near this part of the Outer Banks until Friday morning.
So, while they could, the Foxes took advantage of the empty beach. In the distance, a red flag blew in the breeze warning people to stay out of the ocean. The Foxes said they planned to spend most of Wednesday on the beach before returning home to northern Virginia.
In all directions, there were few people to be seen. Boards covered the windows of some oceanfront homes. A little ways away, workers gathered on another pier to board up a restaurant. Even the aisles of the local Food Lion were mostly empty.
Across the street from the grocery store, boards covered the windows of one house, a message painted on the wood:
“Go Away Dorian.”