ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian briefly made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Friday, hitting the beach resort with powerful winds and battering waves days after reducing parts of the Bahamas to rubble.
The storm made landfall at Cape Hatteras at about 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 km per hour), according to the National Hurricane Center. That was far weaker than its slow, deadly tour through the Bahamas earlier in the week that caused at least 30 deaths.
Before the morning was over, Dorian was headed back out to open sea.
The winds swept floodwaters into coastal areas, hitting the Outer Banks’ Ocracoke Island particularly hard with a 7-foot (2-meter)storm surge, though there were no serious injuries reported, said Donnie Shumate, a spokesman for Hyde County.
One island resident uploaded a video on social media showing people driving a speedboat down a flooded street. The Outer Banks are a picturesque series of narrow barrier islands known for their beaches, lighthouses and natural beauty.
Ellen and Jon Hildebrand, both 59, left their beach-adjacent house to ride out the storm at an inland hotel in Elizabeth City with their daughter, a college student. They bought the house in the Outer Banks two years ago, making Dorian their first hurricane since then.
“That’s the thing that’s the most nerve-racking, it’s so fluid,” Ellen Hildebrand said. “It keeps changing; we didn’t know when to leave.”
Dorian lashed the Outer Banks with hurricane-force winds as far as 45 miles (72 km) from the eye of the storm and sent tropical storm winds farther than 200 miles (320 km) from its center, the hurricane center said.
Dorian is expected to bring tropical storm winds to Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts early on Saturday.
But it will likely spare much of the East Coast the worst of its rain and wind before making landfall in Canada’s Nova Scotia that night, the hurricane center said.
The howling west flank of Dorian has soaked the Carolinas since early Thursday, flooding coastal towns, whipping up more than a dozen tornadoes and cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people.
Dorian was expected to pick up speed from its 14 mph (22 kph) crawl on Friday, and life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds remain a threat for much of the area, the National Hurricane Center said.
The damage appeared to be far less severe than in the Bahamas, where at least 70,000 people are in need of immediate humanitarian relief after Dorian became the most damaging storm ever to hit the island nation.
Of at least four storm-related deaths reported in the United States, three were in Orange County, Florida, during storm preparations or evacuation, the mayor’s office said. In North Carolina, an 85-year-old man fell off a ladder while barricading his home for Dorian, the governor said.
Reporting by Amanda Becker in Elizabeth City, additional reporting by North Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina, and Jonathan Allen, Peter Szekely, Matt Lavietes and Scott DiSavino in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman