Millions in south-east US ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Dorian sparks flood threat
A weakened Hurricane Dorian crept up the south eastern coast of the United States and millions were ordered to evacuate as forecasters said near-record levels of seawater and rain could inundate the area.
The category two storm, which ravaged the Bahamas with more than a full day of devastating wind and rain, threatened to swamp low-lying regions from Georgia to southeastern Virginia as it moved northward.
Dorian appeared likely to get dangerously near Charleston, which is particularly vulnerable since it is located on a peninsula.
A flood chart posted by the National Weather Service projected a combined high tide and storm surge around Charleston Harbour of 10.3 feet; The record, 12.5 feet, was set by Hugo in 1989.
Stores and restaurants were boarded up with wood and corrugated metal in the city's central area, and about 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast.
More than 400 people were in state-operated shelters statewide, and more were expected.
Mark Russell, a homeless US Army veteran, said he had been in a shelter since Monday awaiting slow-moving Dorian.
"Once the rain comes and the wind hits, it's going to blow left, right, in and out, and there's not really a place that you can find" to avoid it, said Mr Russell, 63.
In North Carolina, where authorities said an 85-year-old man died after falling from a ladder while getting ready for the storm, governor Roy Cooper warned about the threat of storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains.
The Outer Banks were particularly vulnerable.
Georgia's coastal islands were also at risk, the state's governor Brian Kemp said on Wednesday.
"We are very worried, especially about the barrier islands getting cut off if we have these storm surges at the same time as ... the high tides," Mr Kemp said.
On Tybee Island, Georgia, just outside of Savannah, Debbie and Tony Pagan stacked beds and couches atop other furniture and blocked doors with sandbags and plastic sheeting before evacuating.
Their home flooded during Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017, and it is still relatively early in this year's hurricane season.
"It's a terrible way to live," Debbie Pagan said.
"We have the whole month of September and October to go. How would you like to be living on pins and needles?"
Also on Tybee, David and Sandy Cason gathered construction materials they had bought but not yet used to rebuild after earlier storms.
Haggling with insurance adjusters delayed those repairs, they said.
"The uncertainty and the unknown are the worst part," Sandy Cason said.
"Just not knowing what's going to be here when you get back."
Weaker but bigger since it slammed the Bahamas with 185mph winds earlier this week, Dorian was moving along Florida's northeastern coast at 9mph on Wednesday afternoon.
Forecasters said it had maximum sustained winds of 105mph and was centred about 180 miles south of Charleston.
A hurricane warning covered about 500 miles of coastline, and authorities warned about three million residents to get away before the water and wind rose with Dorian's approach.
The acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Peter Gaynor, said 4,000 federal emergency personnel; 6,000 National Guard members; and 40,000 utility workers were on standby for the hurricane.
"We are ready to go," Mr Gaynor said.
"We'll follow Dorian up the coast until it is not a threat to the US"
With the threat to Florida easing and the danger shifting northward, Orlando, Florida's international airport reopened, as did Walt Disney World and Universal.
Dorian forced Disney Cruise Line to cancel one trip and delay the return of another ship to Port Canaveral, Florida.
The Navy ordered ships at its huge base in Norfolk, Virginia, to head out to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, were being moved inland to Ohio.