Hurricane Dorian is finally moving away from the Bahamas and will come “dangerously close” to Florida overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
The Category 2 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, is not currently expected to make landfall in the US over the next few days. Still, a wobble here or a strong outer band there could bring its path of destruction closer to the Carolina coasts, including in Charleston, Wilmington and the Outer Banks later in the week.
The hurricane has pummeled the Bahamas, causing at least five deaths and yet-untold destruction from flooding and wind damage. But the storm has not, as American officials had worried, torn up the eastern coast of Florida.
The National Hurricane Center said the risk of hurricane-force winds along North Carolina’s coast is increasing, as is the threat of flash floods along the Florida coast. That risk will spread up the Southeast and mid-Atlantic coast for the rest of the week.
“The core of Hurricane Dorian will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast and the Georgia coast tonight through Wednesday night,” the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. ET advisory. “The center of Dorian is forecast to move near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday through Friday morning.”
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Dorian has decreased from its earlier strength, but the hurricane is growing in size. Hurricane-force winds extend out 60 miles from the center, while tropical storm-force winds extend out 175 miles, the National Hurricane Center said.
Dorian is about 105 miles east of Vero Beach, Florida, and is picking up speed from its days-long standstill, moving to the northwest at about 6 mph. The official forecast predicts that the storm's center will stay about 100 miles off the coast, but hurricane-force wind gusts are likely to be overland along Florida's east coast. A storm surge of 4 to 7 feet is also possible along the coast.
Todd Terrell tells CNN the United Cajun Navy has evolving plans for Dorian. He says the volunteer rescue group has convoys on the way to Savannah and Wilmington to stage in those locations. Some are already there in place.
Ten Florida counties were under mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday, and five were under voluntary evacuation orders. Six coastal counties in Georgia, eight in South Carolina and at least three counties in North Carolina are under mandatory evacuation orders.
But some parts of the Sunshine State were easing their expectations. Several counties, including parts of populous Palm Beach County, lifted their mandatory evacuation orders on Tuesday. Palm Beach County also said its shelters will close at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Disney adjusted park hours -- closing the Magic Kingdom at 3 p.m. Tuesday, for instance -- but announced normal operations will resume Wednesday at all theme parks.
Risk of cabin fever
Dorian traveled just 30 miles in 30 hours from midnight Monday through Tuesday morning. The slow speed of the storm meant that Florida residents have been hunkered down in anticipation of the storm for almost a week now. Schools and offices are shut down, beaches are closed and residents along the water or other low-lying areas have evacuated.
For now, Florida officials said they were worried that restless residents might lower their guards and venture outside to stave off cabin fever amid still-dangerous winds, rain and flooding.
"The amount of time it's taken for this storm to get here is unlike any of the storms we've seen before, and I believe that is becoming one of the biggest hazards," St. Augustine Beach Mayor Undine George said. "People are getting tired and fatigued from the message, but they need to heed the warnings."
Vero Beach Mayor Val Zudans warned residents not to leave their homes before the storm fully leaves the area.
"Just stay in your house until it's announced that it's OK to leave," he told CNN. "Don't mess it up in the end."
Florida is experiencing rain, wind, flooding and storm surge from Dorian, and there has already been one death in pre-storm preparations.
David Allen Bradley, 68, was putting up plywood when he fell three stories to his death, Indialantic Police Chief Mike Connor told CNN.
Bradley was on a small ladder trying to cover up the windows to his home Sunday afternoon. His wife was inside at the moment of the incident and ran outside when she heard the crash. By the time police got there, it was too late, Connor said.
Early Tuesday, a St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy patrolling flooded areas was injured in a head-on crash. The driver of the other vehicle admitted to being under the influence of alcohol and drugs and was driving with a suspended license, police said. Both the deputy and the driver were transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.