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Hurricane Dorian returns to Category 3 strength as it approaches Carolinas coast

Read our latest story from the National Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. update Thursday.

Hurricane Dorian strengthened again Wednesday night as it drew even closer to the Carolinas coast.

Dorian has regained status as a Category 3 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 p.m. update.

The hurricane, with tropical storm-force winds that extend out 195 miles, picked up speed as it is about 100 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, the hurricane center said in an 11 p.m. update.

Now with sustained winds at 115 mph, the hurricane is forecast to get closer, as its current track has it moving northwest at 7 mph, the NHC said.

Forecasters warn Hurricane Dorian’s eye will be “dangerously close,” if not on top of, the coast by Thursday.

“Our forecast right now keeps it really close to the coast, when a little wobble could take it right on shore with some of those winds,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said Wednesday.

“Dorian will continue to approach the coast of South Carolina (Wednesday night), move near or over the coast of South Carolina on Thursday, and then move near or over the coast of North Carolina Thursday night and Friday,” according to the hurricane center’s 11 p.m. update.

Hurricane-force winds extended 60miles out from the “large” eye of Hurricane Dorian, according to the NHC’s 11p.m. update.

Even without making landfall, Dorian is predicted to cause life-threatening storm surge and significant flooding on the coast over the next two days, the hurricane center reported.

Up to 15 inches of rain is predicted in the Carolinas, according to the NHC.

Portions of the southern South Carolina coast are already experiencing tropical storm conditions, which are expected to intensify and move further inland as Dorian gets closer, the hurricane center reported in an 11 p.m. update.

Wind gusts approaching 50 mph were recorded in Hilton Head, South Carolina, according to the National Weather Service’s 10 p.m. update.

Wednesday morning, Charleston began experiencing a “king tide,” flooding parts of the city, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said during a news conference.

Sustained winds of 49 mph with a gust of 57 mph was reported at Winyah Bay, South Carolina, about 35 miles south of Myrtle Beach, the hurricane center said in an update Thursday at 2 a.m.

“’Life-threatening’ storm surges, ranging from four to eight feet in height, are expected across the coast,” National Weather Service meteorologist John Quagliariello said.

In North Carolina, the state’s first hurricane-related death was reported.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said an 85-year-old man in Columbus County fell from a ladder while preparing for the storm.

The chances of Dorian spinning out to sea and sparing the Carolinas have all but vanished, experts say.

“There is basically no change to the track forecast reasoning,” the NHC said of the storm. “Even if Dorian does not make landfall, hurricane-force winds are expected to reach portions of the coast from central Florida to North Carolina.”

By Friday morning, Dorian’s center is predicted to be near Wilmington, and it is expected the storm will remain at hurricane strength, but a Category 1, WTVD reported.

As of 2 a.m., Dorian was about 220 miles southwest of Wilmington, according to the NHC.

Even before it arrives, Dorian is expected to cause water levels to rise all along the coast, and “life-threatening” flash flooding is expected in the Carolinas through Friday, the hurricane center tweeted.

The hurricane is forecast to turn more to the north Wednesday night before a shift to the northeast on Thursday, the NHC said. Dorian is expected to continue to turn to the northeast on Thursday night and Friday, while picking up speed, according to the hurricane center.

The hurricane center said Dorian is forecast to slowly weaken between Thursday and Friday, but it might cover much of the Carolinas coast by that stage.

Rain forecasts call for 15 inches in or around Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties, as well as the Outer Banks areas in Carteret, Pamlico and Hyde counties. Ten inches are expected in surrounding counties, while 4 inches could fall as far east as Raleigh.

“Life-threatening” flash floods, surf and rip currents will accompany the storm, the hurricane center said Wednesday.

A tornado threat is forecast today and Thursday in parts of Onslow, Carteret, Pamlico and Hyde counties nearest the coast, including Camp Lejeune Marine base, the National Weather Service said.

At least 50 Duke energy lineworkers, damage assessors and support personnel loaded up their trucks with supplies, repair equipment and replacement items as they began a caravan from Duke’s Little Rock Operation Center in Charlotte to Florence, S.C. to be in place to restore power for customers affected by Hurricane Dorian. Duke is sending about 450 workers out to respond to the hurricane. The crews left on Wednesday, Sept. 04, 2019. John D. Simmons

“There is a high risk of flash flooding on Thursday across coastal sections from northeast South Carolina into southern North Carolina,” the center said.

Storm surge is predicted to cause water levels to rise dangerously high. The NHC forecast particularly high levels in coastal areas, including:

Isle of Palms to Myrtle Beach, SC — 5 to 8 feet

Savannah River to Isle of Palms, SC — 4 to 7 feet

Myrtle Beach, SC, to Cape Lookout, NC — 4 to 7 feet

Cape Lookout, NC, to Duck, NC, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds and the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers — 4 to 6 feet

All of the powerful elements are expected to leave hundreds of thousands of Carolinas residents in the dark.

Duke Energy predicted that Hurricane Dorian could cause more than 700,000 power outages in the Carolinas.

“Hurricane Dorian is a historic storm headed straight up the Carolina coastline,” Duke Energy meteorology director Nick Keener said in a news release. “This slow-moving, powerful storm will bring hurricane- and tropical-storm-force winds, and rain, over a large area of our coastal, Pee Dee and Triangle regions.”

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Dorian

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.