The dangerous eyewall of Hurricane Dorian moved closer to the Carolinas Thursday evening as the storm brought fierce winds and destructive tornadoes to coastal regions in those states.
Dorian, a high-end Category 2 storm with sustained winds up to 105 mph, was centered over the ocean some 40 miles south of Bald Head Island, North Carolina, by 7 p.m. ET.
The eyewall — containing the storm’s strongest winds — could come so close that it doesn’t technically make landfall but conditions were worsening as the storm moved to the northeast at 10 mph.
Hurricane conditions had already hit South Carolina and were expected in the Tar Heel state with the coming hours.
Rain was pummeling coastal areas including Myrtle Beach and Charleston, where streets have been flooding. One area of South Carolina received more than 7.5 inches in just six hours Thursday afternoon.
Nine inches of rain and high winds in coastal New Hanover County in North Carolina had prompted officials to close parts of 14 roads due to flooding and downed trees.
“Dorian has North Carolina in its sites. It will be a long night,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told CNN. “We need people to hunker down and stay safe. We don’t need people leaving their homes.”
More than 240,000 homes and businesses were reported without power Thursday afternoon in South Carolina and North Carolina.
Tornadoes smash communities along the Carolinas’ coast
Several tornadoes or possible tornadoes were reported in parts of the Carolinas Thursday morning, including a twister that left a trail of destruction in Emerald Isle, a barrier island northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Pictures show mobile homes toppled, some torn apart, with debris strewn around the area.
Byron Cox’s mobile home was still standing, but his father’s was destroyed, he said. Cox was in his home when the tornado approached.
“I remember hearing a loud noise. The next thing I know, the trailer started shaking. … It shook probably 10-15 seconds, real hard,” Cox, 37, said.
“All of a sudden I didn’t feel it (any) more. I looked outside, and the tornado … (was) going through the back. … Debris flying everywhere. Never saw anything like this in my entire life.”
While Byron Cox lives there full-time, his father, Simon Cox, lives in the mobile-home park only part-time. He arrived later Thursday to survey his own property’s damage.
Simon Cox, 66, said the destruction should be a warning for people still waiting out the storm.
“Don’t be around it. When they say get, get!” he said.
Tornadoes are common in the thunderstorm bands of hurricanes and tropical storms, especially in the right-front quadrant of the system. The tornadoes tend to be short-lived and may come with little, if any, warning.
North of Wilmington, a funnel cloud passed a fire station Thursday in video tweeted by the National Weather Service.
About 40 miles southwest of Wilmington, parts of several homes’ roofs and siding were ripped off Thursday morning, the winds scattering debris across lawns, photos shared by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office showed.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether a tornado caused that damage, located in the The Farm housing development near the town of Carolina Shores.
In South Carolina, firefighters say an apparent tornado damaged an unspecified number of vehicles and buildings in North Myrtle Beach.
Wayne White captured video of the funnel cloud there. He said he was checking on some properties he manages when he saw it.
“I saw the circular clouds and was going to take a little video, and the funnel came out of nowhere,” he tweeted.
‘Just stay put … until this passes,’ mayor says
More than 1 million people in parts of South Carolina and North Carolina are under mandatory evacuation orders, forecasters said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency, and the hurricane center warned of “life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds, regardless of the exact track of Dorian’s center.”
As conditions began to deteriorate in Charleston early Thursday, emergency management officials requested that people who remained shelter in place, the Charleston Police Department said on Twitter.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said this week he wanted the city to be a “ghost town” during the storm.
“Just stay put for another six or eight hours until this passes, and then we’re going to clean up and get back to normal quickly,” Tecklenburg told CNN’s John Berman.
Most of the missions conducted by the S.C. National Guard have been clearing debris from roadways in the Charleston area, Capt. Jessica Donnelly said. More than 1,600 National Guard troops were activated for the storm.
Hurricane warning extends to Carolina-Virginia border
A hurricane warning is in effect from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, up to the North Carolina-Virginia border — meaning people in those areas are expected to experience hurricane conditions — with winds of at least 74 mph — at some point.
Parts of Massachusetts are under a tropical storm warning, meaning winds of at between 39 and 73 mph are expected in those areas within 36 hours.
Dorian’s approach to the US comes days after it devastated parts of the northwestern Bahamas and left at least 20 people dead.