South Carolina orders hundreds of thousands to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Dorian

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South Carolina authorities ordered more than three-quarters of a million people to evacuate the state’s coast after Hurricane Dorian, a slow-moving, destructive Category 5 storm, left devastation in the northwest Bahamas on Sunday and headed for the U.S. East Coast.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced the mandatory order, which is scheduled to take effect at noon Monday, at a news conference Sunday night at state emergency management headquarters. It covers all of Beaufort and Charleston counties and parts of the rest of the state’s coastal counties — all told, about 830,000 people, state officials said.

McMaster acknowledged the difficulty of moving so many people out of the area at one time, but he said he couldn’t risk undertaking the evacuations in stages. The state Public Safety and Transportation departments said they would reverse the direction of traffic along evacuation routes to ease the flow Monday.

“We know we can’t make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive,” McMaster said.

A map shows areas under mandatory evacuation orders starting at noon Monday along the South Carolina coast in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.South Carolina Emergency Management Division

Dorian was forecast to have a long life, remaining a hurricane for the next five days. Hurricane watches and warnings were already in effect Sunday afternoon for parts of the Florida coast, where the storm was expected to move “dangerously close” beginning Monday night or Tuesday, forecasters said.

A hurricane warning was issued for Jupiter Inlet to the Volusia-Brevard county line in Florida, while a hurricane watch was issued from the Volusia-Brevard line to the Flagler-Volusia county line. Forecasters said Dorian was expected to arrive along the South Carolina coast sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

“We are preparing for the worst, but we are praying for the best,” said Elliott Summey, chairman of the Charleston County Council.

Download the NBC News app for updates on Hurricane Dorian

North Carolina, meanwhile, also “has to take this storm seriously,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Sunday. “Be ready. It might be far away, but it is already kicking up rip tides at our coast.”

Dorian made landfall Sunday afternoon with estimated sustained surface winds of 185 mph and gusts reaching 220 mph at Elbow Cay, Abacos, in the northern Bahamas. The power of the storm was second only to that of Hurricane Allen in 1980, with its 190 mph winds.

“It is not very often that we measure such strong winds,” the hurricane center said.

Twelve to 24 inches of rain, and up to 30 inches in some areas, were expected in the northwestern Bahamas, which could lead to life-threatening flash floods, the center said. The Tourism Ministry said only certain parts of the northwestern Bahamas had conducted evacuation procedures, and it strongly advised visitors to leave.

Steven Strouss, a meteorologist for NBC News, said that since records began in the 1850s, the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island had never before been directly hit by a Category 5 storm.

At 8 p.m. ET, Dorian was about 75 miles east of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. It was moving west at just 5 mph and was expected to continue inching westward to west-northwest for the next day or two. Forecasters said it would then likely gradually turn northwest, meaning the core of the storm “will continue to pound Great Abaco this evening and move near or over Grand Bahama Island tonight and Monday.”

Full coverage: Latest stories and video on Hurricane Dorian

Bahamanian authorities said Sunday night that they had lost contact with the Abaco Islands because of an island-wide power failure that knocked out most telephone service. And they said they feared Grand Bahama Island could be hit even harder.

“The path of Dorian across Abaco is a short distance,” Health Minister Duane Sands said on ZNS Bahamas radio.

Grand Bahama, by contrast, “is laid out lengthwise across the width of Dorian,” Sands said. “Now, Grand Bahama is in for a number of days. …

“We don’t know what we’re going to find,” he said. “The expectation is there will be catastrophic consequences on both Abaco and Grand Bahama.”

Alex Johnson and Yuliya Talmazan and Kalhan Rosenblatt and Doha Madani
2019-09-02 00:34:00

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