(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Dorian made landfall over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Friday, battering the state’s barrier islands — the Outer Banks — with torrential rain, ferocious winds and dangerous rising floodwaters.
That led to residents — possibly hundreds of them — being stranded on the Outer Banks’ hard-hit Ocracoke Island, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. The Hyde County Sheriff’s Office called the flooding there “catastrophic.”
Leslie Lanier, who lives on Ocracoke Island, said some residents had to climb into their attics to escape the water.
Lanier is OK but “nervous and worried,” she told ABC Raleigh station WTVD.
Crews flew to Ocracoke Island via helicopter Friday afternoon to start evacuating residents.
“Please continue to send prayers to the people of Ocracoke as they have a long road ahead,” the sheriff’s office said.
Meanwhile, Hatteras Island, about 35 miles away from Ocracoke Island, “is literally drowning… the flooding is insane,” said Outer Banks resident Sarah Ashley.
Ashley evacuated inland but said her husband stayed behind.
“We’re praying that these winds die down before high tide [Friday afternoon],” she told ABC News via email.
The governor urged those in Dare and Hyde Counties to move to the highest point in their homes as the fierce waters rise.
At least 321,000 homes and businesses were without power across the Carolinas and Virginia on Friday as a result of the storm, now a Category 1 hurricane.
Dorian is expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain in northeast North Carolina through Friday night, with as much as 15 inches of total rainfall in some spots.
The combination of downpours and storm surge as high as 7 feet could cause life-threatening flash floods.
South Carolina has already seen more than 10 inches of rain since the storm barreled up the coast on Thursday.
At least 20 tornadoes were reported in the Carolinas on Thursday. One tornado ripped through Emerald Isle, N.C., upending mobile homes and strewing debris across the roads.
Another tornado was reported in Little River, S.C., where one resident told ABC Florence affiliate WPDE that they heard what sounded “like a large airplane or a large train coming through.”
By Friday afternoon and evening, Dorian’s gusty winds and heavy rain will move out to sea, but the storm is still set to bring heavy rain and up to 4 feet of storm surge to southern Virginia.
Even the Northeast will see impacts from Dorian when the storm grazes the coast with heavy rain Friday night into Saturday morning.
A coastal flood advisory was issued for parts of New Jersey, New York and coastal Connecticut, while a tropical storm watch was issued for Cape Cod and eastern Maine.
Before approaching the United States, Dorian slammed into the Bahamas on Sunday afternoon as a Category 5 hurricane, making the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record.
At least 30 people have died in the Bahamas due to Dorian, but the country’s health minister told a local radio station Thursday that the final death count will be “staggering.”
The storm hovered over the archipelago’s northern islands for nearly two days, flattening homes, submerging roads and flooding an international airport.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Dorian left “generational devastation” across the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, which are both in the archipelago’s northern region, east of southern Florida.
“Everybody’s, like, in a state of shock right now. We lost everything,” one woman said. “So right now we’re in survival mode.”
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