Along its punishing path over the past 13 days, Dorian bashed the U.S. Virgin Islands, bombarded the northern Bahamas, grazed Florida and scraped the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas. Then on Friday, it bruised the coast of the Mid-Atlantic. It’s next set to brush eastern New England in its final U.S. stop before jetting off to the Canadian Maritimes.
The North Carolina Outer Banks, southeast Virginia and the southern Delmarva Peninsula caught a departing blast from Dorian’s heavy rain, strong winds and storm surge Friday morning and afternoon.
Early in the day, several locations along the North Carolina Outer Banks reported wind gusts up to 98 mph as the eyewall, the hurricane’s zone of the most severe weather surrounding its center, passed over early Friday morning. The storm officially made landfall over Cape Hatteras at 8:35 a.m.
Water on the storm’s backside drove a 7-foot storm surge into the Outer Banks south of Nags Head, resulting in significant coastal flooding and inundation. At the Hatteras Station gauge, the water level was the second highest in the last decade.
On Friday night and Saturday the accelerating storm will blow by extreme eastern Massachusetts and Maine, including Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and parts of Cape Cod, unleashing several hours of wind-swept rain and high seas.
Once Dorian exits, it will be most remembered for its catastrophic 40-hour siege over the northwestern Bahamas. It had less impact on the United States, even as it produced upward of 10 inches of rain, areas of coastal and inland flooding, tornadoes and wind gusts up to 50 to 95 mph from the Florida coast to the Delmarva Peninsula.
The storm has endured for what seems like an eternity. The disturbance that became Dorian left the coast of Africa 18 days ago. Friday marked Dorian’s 13th day as a named storm and ninth as a hurricane. Fewer than 10 percent of hurricanes in recorded history have lasted this long.
As of 5 p.m. Eastern time, the center of Hurricane Dorian was located 330 miles south-southwest of Nantucket, Mass., as the core of the storm pulled away from the state’s Outer Banks. The eye of the storm itself had passed over Cape Hatteras where landfall was declared 8:35 a.m.
The storm was racing northeast at 24 mph, a marked increase in speed compared to the past five days.
Dorian has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, with higher gusts, making it a high-end Category 1 storm. It is forecast to slowly weaken as it interacts with land, passes over cooler water, and is exposed to wind shear (winds moving with different speeds or direction with height). But it is predicted to remain a Category 1 hurricane into Saturday afternoon before transitioning into a “powerful hurricane-force” post-tropical storm over the Canadian Maritimes, according to the Hurricane Center.
Dorian’s hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 75 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 220 miles.
By late Friday afternoon, radar showed the last of the storm’s outer rain bands grazing the Outer Banks and eastern Delmarva Peninsula and about to move off. The rain was streaking northeast and a few showers were already clipping eastern New England where the rain was expected to increase in coverage and intensity Friday night.
The core of the storm, including its eyewall, had exited the Outer Banks by midday. Before it departed, winds were sustained at 60 to 80 mph with gusts up to 90 to 100 mph. For example, a weather station on Avon Sound reported a sustained wind of 83 mph and a gust to 98 mph around 10 a.m. Other peak gusts Friday morning included: Cedar Island 96 mph, Cape Lookout 94 mph, Oregon Inlet 92 mph, and Ocracoke and Cape Hatteras 89 mph.
In Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the rain was ending late Friday afternoon, although windy weather persisted with gusts to 40 to 50 mph after peaking near 65 mph earlier. Winds will slowly diminish Friday night.
About 150,000 customers were without power in North Carolina, 85,000 in South Carolina and 30,000 in Virginia.
Friday morning, as northwest winds funneled south through Pamlico Sound on Dorian’s backside, it drove a rapid storm surge of 7 feet into southeast Hyde and Dare counties where the Weather Service declared a flash flood emergency, its most severe flood alert until noon. “Residents are urged to go to a higher level of their homes to avoid the rapidly rising flood waters from the Pamlico Sound,” the Weather Service office in Morehead City tweeted. “Water levels are expected to inundate 1st floors of homes.”
Photos from social media showed serious storm surge inundation.
By late afternoon., the surge levels had lowered but water levels were still at minor flood stage. They are expected to drop to normal Friday night.
Flash flood warnings in effect earlier in northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia were discontinued as the rain subsided. About two to five inches of rain fell in Norfolk, while some surrounding areas received up to 6 or 7 inches.
Wilmington, N.C., where the rain had ended, received 10.67 inches. Other top rainfall totals include 15.21 inches from a weather station near Pawleys Island, S.C. and 12.77 inches at a weather station near Myrtle Beach.
As Norfolk’s 4 p.m. high tide approached, social media scenes displayed areas of tidal flooding:
We are already seeing tidal flooding in the City of Norfolk as Hurricane #Dorian moves away from the area. Expect to continue to see water rise across Hampton Roads as we approach high tide this afternoon. #VAwx #HamptonRoads https://t.co/8YtxMD8fwO— NWS Wakefield (@NWSWakefieldVA) September 6, 2019
Water levels in Southeast Virginia are expected to drop Friday evening.
The forecast for eastern New England
The storm is predicted to remain at hurricane strength through Friday night as it races northeastward. Tropical storm warnings have been hoisted for eastern New England, including eastern Maine and parts of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, even though the center of Dorian is expected to stay about 150 miles offshore there.
Two to four inches of rain could fall in this area, with locally up to six inches, while winds gust to 40 to 60 mph. The majority of the rain should finish by Saturday afternoon in eastern Massachusetts and Saturday night in eastern Maine.
The storm won’t yet be done affecting land, however. The Hurricane Center expects the storm to transition into a hurricane force post-tropical storm that will make a direct hit on the Canadian Maritimes on Saturday, where hurricane watches and warnings are in effect.