WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Dorian howled over North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday — a much weaker version of the brute that wreaked havoc in the Bahamas — flooding homes in the low-lying ribbon of islands and throwing a scare into year-round residents who chose to tough it out. Hundreds were feared trapped on one flooded island, the governor said.
Its winds down to 90 mph (145 kph), the Category 1 hurricane lashed communities with rain and surging seawater as it hugged the islands. Around midmorning, its eye came ashore at Cape Hatteras, Dorian’s first landfall on the U.S. mainland.
“It’s bad,” Ann Warner, who owns Howard’s Pub on Ocracoke Island, said by telephone. “The water came up to the inside of our bottom floor, which has never had water.” She said a skylight blew out and whitecaps coursed through her front yard and underneath her elevated house.
“We’re safe,” Warner added. “But it’s certainly a mess.”
Another Ocracoke Island resident, bookshop owner Leslie Lanier, said via text message that the first floors of some homes had flooded and people had been forced to retreat to their attics, but that the water had already begun to drop.
“We are flooding like crazy,” she said, adding: “I have been here 32 years and not seen this.”
The Hyde County Sheriff’s Office said deputies, medics and other rescuers were heading to the island amid reports of “catastrophic flooding.”
“There is significant concern about hundreds of people trapped on Ocracoke Island,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “There are rescue teams ready as soon as they can get in.” He said that the water was rising fast and that authorities were telling people to get to the highest point in their homes.
Even in good weather, the island is reachable only by boat or air.
As of 9 a.m. EDT, Dorian was moving northeast at 14 mph (22 kph). It is expected to remain a hurricane as it sweeps up the Eastern Seaboard through Saturday, veering far enough offshore that its hurricane-force winds are unlikely to pose any threat to land in the U.S.
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More than 370,000 people were without electricity in the Carolinas and Virginia as Dorian moved up the coast.
At least four people were killed in the Southeast. All were men in Florida or North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane.
On the Outer Banks, which stick out from the coast like the side-view mirror on a car, forecasters said large and destructive waves could reach nearly to the ceilings of one-story structures along the 200-mile (320-kilometer) string of islands.
As Dorian closed in, many of the Outer Banks’ storm-hardened residents tied down their boats, removed objects from their yards that could blow away, and hunkered down. Warner said about half the 1,000 residents of Ocracoke stuck it out.
At the start of the week, Dorian slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph (295 kph) winds, killing at least 30 people and obliterating countless homes. From there, it swept past Florida and Georgia at a relatively safe distance, then sideswiped the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes that peeled away roofs and flipped recreational vehicles.
Still, the damage was far less than feared in many parts of the Carolinas, including historic Charleston, South Carolina, which is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, and Wilmington, North Carolina, the state’s biggest coastal city.
“We prepared for the worst and that didn’t happen. That’s OK. I was a little worried back when it was a Category 3. We got lucky,” said Ross Page, who walked his dogs in Wilmington on Friday morning.
Joseph Pawlick went out to rake leaves, twigs and other debris blown from the sidewalk outside his Wilmington home. “I slept like a baby last night. This, thankfully, was not bad,” he said.