KITTY HAWK, NC – The wrath of Hurricane Dorian slammed the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Virginia Beach Friday after scraping along the East Coast, unleashing furious tornadoes and knocking out power for 300,000 people in the Carolinas.
The storm came in with such fury that took even some storm-hardened residents by surprise, forcing people to climb into their attics. Hundreds were feared trapped by high water, and neighbors used boats to rescue one another.
“We are flooding like crazy,” Ocracoke Island bookshop owner Leslie Lanier texted. “I have been here 32 years and not seen this.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said there was a concern that hundreds of people were trapped on Ocracoke Island.
“We were all on social media laughing about how we’d done well and there was really no flooding at all, just rain, typical rain,” Steve Harris, who has lived on Ocracoke Island for most of the last 19 years. And then, “the wall of water just came rushing through the island.”
“It just started looking like a bathtub, very quickly,” said Harris, who was safe in his third-floor condo. “We went from almost no water to 4 to 6 feet in a matter of minutes.”
The Coast Guard began landing local law enforcement officers on the island via helicopter and airlifting out the sick, the elderly or others in distress, Hyde County authorities said. National Guard helicopters also flew supplies and a rescue team in. Residents were told to get to the highest point in their homes in the meantime.
“Several people were rescued from their upper floors or attics by boat by good Samaritans,” Ocracoke Island restaurant owner Jason Wells said in a text message.
Later in the day, power outages had dropped to around 213,000 in the Carolinas and Virginia.
So far, officials report at least five storm-related deaths and at least 20 tornadoes, including one in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Emerald Isle town employees work to clear the road after a tornado hit Emerald Isle N.C. as Hurricane Dorian moved up the East Coast on Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)
All along the Outer Banks before the storm hit, it appeared to be a virtual ghost town as the region braced for the next brutal punch – no one on the beach, no boats in the marina, boarded-up businesses, and homes. The Outer Banks took Dorian seriously.
For John Britt with Nor'Banks Sailing & Watersports, that meant getting all the boats and jet skis out of the sound and on to dry land.
Nearby in Corolla, Doug Brindley who oversees more than 500 beach properties was making sure everything was secure.
UPDATE: This 1-km visible animation from NOAA's #GOES16 shows #HurricaneDorian quickly moving away from the #EastCoast at 21 mph. #Hurricane and #TropicalStorm warnings still remain in effect for some locations from #NorthCarolina to #Newfoundland, #Canada. @NHC_Atlantic pic.twitter.com/fOrFF3XB43
— NOAA Satellites PA (@NOAASatellitePA) September 6, 2019
The rains and winds picked up throughout the night and the waves grew to dangerous levels as the eye of Hurricane Dorian passed right over the Outer Banks Friday morning.
Although most residents heeded the warning to evacuate, a few decided to ride it out.
Even with the storm's fury, 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.
Meanwhile, Operation Blessing has pre-deployed to both the Bahamas and the Carolinas to help with any urgent needs survivors may face.
Dorian's winds also caused some damage in Virginia Beach near CBN on Friday.