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Hurricane Dorian returns to category 3 strength as it churns up US coast

Bahamas

Tens of thousands without power as hurricane threatens low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia with storm surge

 

After hammering the Bahamas and leaving at least 20 dead, Hurricane Dorian returned to category 3 strength and began raking the south-east US seaboard early on Thursday.

 

Tens of thousands were without power as Dorian threatened to inundate low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia with life-threatening storm surge.

 

Dorian squatted over the Bahamas as its strongest hurricane on record, leaving widespread devastation.

 

It weakened substantially, dropping from a category 5 to a category 2 storm, before increasing again late on Wednesday. It could maintain that intensity for several days before gradually weakening through Saturday, said the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

 

In South Carolina, more than 68,700 in Charleston county and more than 15,200 in Beaufort county were without power, according to Dominion Energy. Berkeley Electric Cooperative reported another 12,600 lost electricity in Charleston county. Duke Energy said it expected the storm to cause 700,000 outages in the Carolinas and that it brought in resources from 23 states and Canada to respond.

 

More than 1,500 people sought refuge in 28 shelters in South Carolina, where sheets of rain began falling late on Wednesday in the historic port city of Charleston, on a peninsula prone to flooding. As Dorian crept closer, winds sent rain sheets sideways, thunder boomed in the night sky and power flickered on and off in places.

Dorian remained a force to be reckoned with, its swirling circle of winds and rain wrapped around a large, gaping eye visible on photos taken from space. At 5am ET on Thursday the distinct eye of the hurricane churned about 80 miles south of Charleston, moving north at 8mph off the coast with dangerously high winds of 115mph extending about 60 miles outward.

 

About 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast. A flood chart posted by the National Weather Service projected a combined high tide and storm surge around Charleston Harbor of 10.3ft; the record, 12.5ft, was set by Hugo in 1989.

 

Hundreds of thousands were ordered off the Georgia coast. The governor, Brian Kemp, said: “We are very worried, especially about the barrier islands getting cut off.”

 

In North Carolina, where authorities said an 85-year-old man died after falling from a ladder while preparing his home for Dorian, the state’s governor, Roy Cooper, warned of storm surge and flash flooding. The Outer Banks barrier islands were particularly exposed.

 

In Florida, there was widespread relief after Dorian passed by a relatively safe distance offshore. Orlando international airport reopened, as did Walt Disney World and Universal. One Florida resident died while preparing for the storm, a 56-year-old man who was knocked to the ground from a tree on Monday.

 

The US navy ordered ships at its huge base in Norfolk, Virginia, to head to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley air force base in Hampton were moved inland. The commander of the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic issued an emergency evacuation order for military personnel and their dependents in five North Carolina counties.

 

Peter Gaynor, the acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said 4,000 federal responders, 6,000 national guard members and 40,000 utility workers were on standby.

 

“We are ready to go,” Gaynor said. “We’ll follow Dorian up the coast until it is not a threat.”

 

Original story from theguardian