Hurricane Dorian Expected to Menace Carolinas Through Friday

By Brian K. Sullivan and Christopher Martin | September 4, 2019

Sep 5, 2019, 9:58 AM — Hurricane Dorian will strafe the North Carolina coast by Thursday night, and could make landfall in the state with 115 mile-per-hour winds and an 8-foot storm surge.

Located about 70 miles (113 kilometers) from Charleston, South Carolina, Dorian is traveling at around 8 mph and could soon turn closer to the shoreline, the National Hurricane Center reported at 8 a.m. New York time. The coastal Carolinas are forecast to get 6 to 12 inches of rain, with 15 inches in isolated areas, and a storm surge as high as eight feet.

There is already flooding in the streets of Charleston, and Dorian has spawned a rash of tornadoes across the region, according to Ryan Truchelut, president of WeatherTiger LLC in Tallahassee, Florida.

“We’re heading into the final act for this,” Truchelut said by telephone. But first, Dorian “is really going to rake the South Carolina and North Carolina coastlines,” with the worst blows coming in the 24 hours starting noon on Thursday, he said.

The storm battered the Bahamas for two days, killing at least 20 people. It then quietly slipped past Florida, running parallel to the coast. Now, the Carolinas face the threat of landfall on the Outer Banks on Friday, though forecasters say Dorian’s wind speed is expected to slow as it moves north.

In Charleston, where sandbags have been distributed, the city council approved an emergency order to enact a curfew if necessary, according to a tweet. Local and state governments have ordered coastline residents and businesses to begin evacuations.

Duke Energy Corp., which owns several utilities in the region, moved an extra 4,000 repair workers from other states and Canada to the Carolinas in anticipation of the hurricane’s arrival, according to a statement. The company estimates as many as 700,000 customers could lose power.

Santee Cooper, which supplies power to 2 million people in South Carolina, has a crew of more than 800 standing by for recovery efforts.

While Dorian has reached winds of 180 mph during its travels, it’s unlikely to be one of the 10 most expensive storms for insurers. Analysts at UBS Group AG estimated the hurricane would spur as much as $10 billion of insured losses overall, a figure placing it outside Swiss Re AG’s list of the 10 worst. UBS cut its estimate from an earlier prediction of $25 billion.

Meanwhile, the hurricane couldn’t arrive at a worse time for farmers in the region raising cotton, tobacco, hemp and corn. Fields were maturing, and high winds could deal a potentially devastating blow before farmers have a chance to harvest.

In the Bahamas, authorities and first responders are just starting to assess the damage from the strongest storm to hit the island nation in modern history, with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis confirming in a news conference that at least 20 people have died on Abaco Island, a number that’s expected to increase.

Parts of Abaco — the island first hit — are “decimated,” Minnis said, with “severe damage to homes, businesses and other buildings and infrastructure.”

Minnis said in a tweet that he spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who both pledged assistance to Grand Bahama and Abaco. Large tracts of homes are under water, and outbreaks of looting are adding to the country’s misery.

Equinor ASA said Thursday that its oil-storage facility in the Bahamas sustained damage from the storm. Some oil had been observed on the ground by the tanks, though none had been observed at sea, the company said in a statement.

The hurricane could cost the Bahamas alone at least $7 billion in insured and uninsured losses, according to an estimate from risk modeler Karen Clark & Co. The preliminary estimate combines damage to commercial, residential and industrial properties as well as business-interruption expenses, the company said in a report Thursday. The figure doesn’t include vehicle losses or damage to infrastructure.

“Dorian will go down in history as the worst catastrophe in this region, not only due to the highest recorded wind speed in the North Atlantic but also because the storm stalled over Abaco and Grand Bahama Island for over 24 hours,” Karen Clark said in its report.

–With assistance from David R. Baker, Bill Lehane, Sheela Tobben, Jonathan Levin, Andrew Janes, Kim Chipman, Christopher Martin, Matthew Bristow, Serene Cheong, Dan Murtaugh, Alex Longley, Katherine Chiglinsky and Will Hadfield.

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