Southeast placed on high alert as Dorian approaches

Hurricane Dorian was on the move along the U.S. coastline early Wednesday, lashing the east coast of central Florida and eyeing the Carolinas.

The slow-moving storm devastated parts of the Bahamas where it killed at least seven people when it virtually stalled out over the northwestern islands.

Rain bands from the storm were drenching the northeastern coast of Florida at 5 a.m. Wednesday, the national hurricane center said. The storm is expected to come “dangerously close” to Florida’s east coast and the Georgia coast through Wednesday night, and forecasters with the National Hurricane Center say it will move near or over the South and North Carolina coasts Thursday through Friday morning.

Though the storm is now a Category 2 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph — it was a Category 5 when it made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday — officials have warned residents to take precautions and to heed evacuation orders as it has the potential to produce storm surges of several feet.

Federal emergency declarations have been approved for four states – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina – and the governor of Virginia had also declared a state of emergency.

21 PHOTOSHurricane DorianSee GalleryHurricane DorianThis Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 image provided by NASA shows a view of Hurricane Dorian from the International Space Station as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico.Leaving mercifully little damage in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Dorian swirled toward the U.S., with forecasters warning it will draw energy from the warm, open waters as it closes in.(NASA via AP)Store shelves are empty of bottled water as residents buy supplies in preparation for Hurricane Dorian,in Doral, Fla., Thursday, July 29, 2019.The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Dorian could hit the Florida coast over the weekend as a major hurricane. (AP Photo/Marcus Lim)Shoppers prepare ahead of Hurricane Dorian at The Home Depot on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)Empty shelves are seen with a sign at Costco stating that the retailer is currently sold out of water ahead of Hurricane Dorian on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, left, looks on as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks about Tropical Storm Dorian outside of the the National Hurricane Center, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)This GOES-16 satellite image taken Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, at 14:20 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, right, moving over open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Dorian was expected to grow into a potentially devastating Category 3 hurricane before hitting the U.S. mainland late Sunday or early Monday somewhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia.(NOAA via AP)Shoppers wait in long lines at Costco, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Davie, Fla., as they stock up on supplies ahead of Hurricane Dorian. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA- AUGUST 30:People walk to their boat through a flooded parking lot at the Haulover Marine Center before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian on August 30, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. The high water was due to King tide which may cause additional problems as Hurricane Dorian arrives in the area as a possible Category 4 storm along the Florida coast. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA- AUGUST 30:Weston Rice drives through a flooded parking lot as he prepares to drop his jet ski into the water at the Haulover Marine Center before the arrival of Hurricane Dorian on August 30, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. The high water was due to King tide which may cause additional problems as Hurricane Dorian arrives in the area as a possible Category 4 storm along the Florida coast. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)A man stands on a store’s roof as he works to prepare it for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Hurricane Dorian intensified yet again Sunday as it closed in on the northern Bahamas, threatening to batter islands with Category 5-strength winds, pounding waves and torrential rain. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)This GOES-16 satellite image taken Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at 17:00 UTC and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian, right, churning over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Dorian struck the northern Bahamas on Sunday as a catastrophic Category 5 storm, its 185 mph winds ripping off roofs and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered in schools, churches and other shelters. (NOAA via AP)President Donald Trump, left, listens as Kenneth Graham, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, on screen, gives an update during a briefing about Hurricane Dorian at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Washington, at right of Trump is Acting Administrator Pete Gaynor, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Neil Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing about Hurricane Dorian at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Washington, as Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)People walk on a largely deserted beach of the Atlantic Ocean on the barrier island in Vero Beach, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. The barrier island is under a voluntary evacuation today and a mandatory evacuation tomorrow in preparation for the possibility of Hurricane Dorian making landfall. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)RIVIERA BEACH, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 1: Workers place shutters over the windows of a Food Mart store as the owner prepares just in case Hurricane Dorian hits the area on September 1, 2019 in Riviera Beach, Florida. Dorian was projected to make landfall along the Florida coast but now projections have it making a sharp turn to the north as it closes in on Florida.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Tree branches are seen in the road during the approach of Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas. – Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Sunday, packing 160 mph (267 kph) winds as it was about to slam into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, US weather forecasters said.”#Dorian is now a category 5 #hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds,” the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a tweet. “The eyewall of this catastrophic hurricane is about to hit the Abaco Islands with devastating winds,” it said.The slow moving storm was expected to linger over the Bahamas through Sunday and much of Monday, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and unleashing storm surges of 10 to 15-feet, forecasters said. (Photo by Lucy WORBOYS / AFP)(Photo credit should read LUCY WORBOYS/AFP/Getty Images)Tree branches are seen in the road during the approach of Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas. – Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Sunday, packing 160 mph (267 kph) winds as it was about to slam into the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, US weather forecasters said.”#Dorian is now a category 5 #hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds,” the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a tweet. “The eyewall of this catastrophic hurricane is about to hit the Abaco Islands with devastating winds,” it said.The slow moving storm was expected to linger over the Bahamas through Sunday and much of Monday, dumping up to 25 inches of rain in some areas and unleashing storm surges of 10 to 15-feet, forecasters said. (Photo by Lucy WORBOYS / AFP)(Photo credit should read LUCY WORBOYS/AFP/Getty Images)The entrance to Wambasso Beach County Park is closed in Wambasso Beach, Florida on September 1, 2019, ahead of Hurricane Dorian. – Hurricane Dorian unleashed “catastrophic conditions”as it hit the northern Bahamas, lashing the low-lying island chain with devastating 180 mph (285 kph) winds, the most intense in its modern history. Florida residents, meanwhile, were bracing for a potentially dangerous brush with the storm as it slowly turns north after passing the Bahamas. (Photo by Adam DelGiudice / AFP)(Photo credit should read ADAM DELGIUDICE/AFP/Getty Images)US President Donald Trump receives a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) on Hurricane Dorian in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2019. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)(Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)US President Donald Trump receives a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) on Hurricane Dorian in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2019. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)(Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)ATLANTIC OCEAN – SEPTEMBER 1:In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image, Hurricane Dorian, now a Cat. 5 storm, tracks towards the Florida coast taken at 13:20Z September 1, 2019 in the Atlantic Ocean. A hurricane warning is in effect for much of the northwestern Bahamas as it gets hit with 175 mph winds. According to the National Hurricane Center Dorian is predicted to hit the U.S. as a Category 4 storm. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)Up Next

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The hurricane is expected to remain at about the same intensity for the next couple of days, and even if it does not make landfall, hurricane-force winds are expected to reach parts of the coast from central Florida to North Carolina, the hurricane center said in a forecast discussion online Tuesday night.

The Latest on Dorian:

  • The hurricane was lashing the east coast of central Florida early Wednesday and was about 90 miles east of Daytona Beach and moving north-northwest at 8 mph.
  • The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 105 mph early Wednesday.
  • At least seven people have died in the Bahamas, and more deaths are expected to be reported, the prime minister said.
  • Officials said Dorian was set to move “dangerously close” to Florida’s east coast and the Georgia coast through Wednesday night, and near or over the South and North Carolina coasts Thursday through Friday morning.

The center of Hurricane Dorian was around 100 miles east of Daytona Beach on Wednesday morning, and video showed winds and rain hitting parts of St. Augustine Beach, the coast southeast of Jacksonville, Cocoa Beach and more Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Volusia County, Florida, emergency management officials tweeted early Wednesday that all bridges there were closed to eastbound traffic. The county sheriff’s office said it was prepared with high-water rescue teams if needed.

Hurricane warnings were in place from a stretch of the Florida coast from Volusia-Brevard County line to Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida, and from the Savannah River on the Georgia-South Carolina border to Surf City, North Carolina, the hurricane center said.

Storm surge warnings stretched from a large section of the coast from Sebastian Inlet, Florida, south of Melbourne, to Surf City in North Carolina. The hurricane center said that storm surges of 4 to 7 feet could be seen in some parts of the Carolinas, and 3 to 5 feet in parts of Florida and Georgia.

Whatever the exact tract that the hurricane takes in the coming days, “life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds” are expected along parts of Florida’s east coast and Georgia and the Carolinas, the hurricane center said.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to take evacuation orders seriously. He activated 300 National Guard members and issued evacuation orders for all barrier islands beginning Wednesday.

“We have seen the life-and-death effects of this storm in the Bahamas, and we urge everyone on the islands at the coast to leave,” he said in a statement.

The governors of South Carolina and Georgia have also ordered at least 1 million people to evacuate. Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas.

13 PHOTOS13 things to do to prepare for a hurricaneSee Gallery13 things to do to prepare for a hurricane

Establish an emergency plan with your family.

The Department of Homeland Security says all families should come up with an emergency plan well before a disaster occurs.

Families should prepare their emergency kits (keep scrolling for a list of items to put in them) and determine what they will do in case of a necessary evacuation. Agree upon a reunion point for your family, and pick someone out of state who your family members to contact if you get separated.

Write down important phone numbers and keep them in your wallet, as cell phones may die during a disaster.

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Prepare an emergency kit ahead of time.

The Red Cross recommends that all emergency kits include enough water for at least three days, with a minimum of one gallon per person per day.

Other suggested items include non-perishable food, a flashlight, a weather radio, a first-aid kit, medications, copies of important documents, cash, an emergency blanket, and a map of the area.

Jarrod Murrieta, head of claims catastrophe response at Farmers Insurance, told Business Insider that he also recommends buying a filtration device that can remove bacteria and parasites from water.

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You may need to treat your water if you are waiting a long time for the storm to end.

You may lose access to clean drinking water during a severe storm. If so, it’s best to boil water to make it safe to consume. If that’s not possible, you can use bleach to kill microorganisms. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir the contents, and let them stand for 30 minutes.

If you are running low on water, avoid salty foods because they will make you thirsty. Instead, eat whole-grain cereals and canned foods that have a lot of liquid.

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Don’t evacuate unless officials recommend or require it.

Storm surge warnings are the most common reason for mandatory evacuation orders. To find out whether your area is being ordered to evacuate, sign up for your community’s warning system, and pay attention to the Emergency Alert System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

Evacuating without guidance from officials can be dangerous. Last year, when Hurricane Harvey hit, officials initially chose not to tell Houston residents to vacate their homes because they were hoping to prevent drivers from getting into accidents or getting caught in traffic on flooding roads. That decision was informed by chaos that ensued before Hurricane Rita in 2005, when 73 people died in Texas as about 3 million residents were trying to evacuate.

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Find out where your local evacuation shelter is located.

In areas at risk of hurricanes, emergency shelters will likely be set up before the storm, and you can contact local officials or FEMA to figure out where these shelters are.

The Red Cross keeps a list of available emergency shelters, and you can search for open shelters by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 43362.

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Prepare your home for heavy rainfall.

Start preparing for heavy rainfall by securing your rain gutters and clearing the drains.

Keep tarps and some cords to tie them down in case you need to patch up holes in your house.

When the storm arrives, flooding and downed power lines may also require you to turn off your power, so prepare to switch it off.

If you live in a flood-prone area, it’s a good idea to waterproof your basement ahead of storm season and elevate your heating system, electric panel, and water heater. You can also install a sump pump and get a water alarm that will notify you when the system is overloaded.

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Clear your yard before the storm hits.

Make sure there’s nothing in your front or backyard that could get swept up in water or blown about by strong winds and cause damage to your home. Bring patio furniture, propane tanks, bikes, and other large objects inside.

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Do not put tape on your windows.

If you apply duct tape to glass windows, extreme winds could make the glass break into larger and deadlier shards.

Instead, you should board up your windows with plywood and caulk the perimeters. If you are preparing far ahead of hurricane season, you can also buy wind-resistant windows and pull-down storm shutters.

During the storm, stay away from the windows to avoid getting hurt by broken glass. It is better to pass the time in a room without windows or inside a closet when the strongest part of the storm hits.

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Prepare your car in case you need to evacuate.

Your car’s gas tank should be full before a storm arrives in case you need to leave your house. Lines get long at gas pumps ahead of a storm, so take this step as early as possible.

If you’re anticipating an evacuation order, make sure that your car has an emergency kit stored inside.

As with any outdoor furniture or decorations, any cars should be moved into your garage or under cover before a storm hits.

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Do not attempt to drive through floodwater.

Driving through floodwaters is more dangerous than it may seem — 12 inches of fast-moving water is enough to sweep away a car.

If you can’t see the bottom of a flooded area, you should avoid stepping into the water. A storm surge or flood can contaminate water with bacteria and chemicals. There could be sharp objects like nails or broken glass hidden from view, and puncture wounds can lead to tetanus or other infections. Downed power lines in the water may also expose you to electricity. And in some areas, you risk encountering snakes and fire ants in the water.

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Take steps to insulate your clothing if you are in wet or cold conditions.

Stuffing your clothes with insulating material is the best way to maintain warmth, survival expert Tim MacWelch told National Geographic. You can use a range of items for this, including crumpled paper, leaves, or bubble wrap.

If you’re trapped in wet or cold conditions, sharing body heat with another person is also a good way to stay warm. Or if you are able to access an object that has been heated, such as a stone or bottle, hold it between layers of your clothes. MacWelch said this is a safe way to help hypothermia victims.

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Put a quarter in a cup of frozen water in your freezer.

Power outages can spoil everything in your fridge, and it may not be clear whether your food is safe to eat. An easy trick to determine whether items in your fridge might have spoiled is to fill a cup with water and put it in the freezer until the water is frozen. Then, put a quarter on top of the cup and return it to the freezer.

When you return, if your quarter hasn’t moved, then you’ll know that your electricity did not go out for a long time during the storm. But if the quarter is resting at the bottom of the cup, your food is no longer safe to eat.

The CDC also recommends that you lower the thermostat in your fridge and freezer to the lowest possible temperature. That will help your food stay fresh longer if the power goes out.

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Clean your home quickly after a storm ends to prevent mold growth.

The CDC recommends that you clean and dry your home within 24 to 48 hours after a flood ends, if possible.

To air out your house, use fans to dry any wet areas and open the doors and windows. If you can’t dry something quickly, it is best to throw it away.

You also need to remove and throw away drywall and insulation if it has been contaminated with sewage. Pay attention to leaks in the roof or walls as well.

If you spot mold, put on some protective equipment — ideally goggles, a N-95 respirator, and protective gloves — and clean it. According to the CDC, you should mix a cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water to clean off mold.

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No deaths have been reported in the U.S. in connection with storm conditions affecting parts of the Florida coast, but on Sunday, a 68-year-old man in Indialantic died while preparing for the storm, police said.

David Alan Bradley fell from a ladder on his third-story balcony while putting plywood on his windows, Indialantic Police Chief Michael Connor confirmed in an email early Wednesday.

As the U.S. braces for Dorian, the Bahamas has begun to assess the scope of the disaster there. For hours, Dorian parked over Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, pounding them with winds up to 185 mph and torrential rain before finally moving into open waters Tuesday on a course toward Florida.

“It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic,” Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief group and flew over the Bahamas’ hard-hit Abaco Islands, told the Associated Press. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”

Seven deaths have been reported, but leaders say more are likely. Head-Rigby said her representative on Abaco told her there were “a lot more dead,” though she had no numbers as bodies being gathered.

The Bahamas’ prime minister also expected more deaths and predicted that rebuilding would require “a massive, coordinated effort.”

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference. “No effort or resources will be held back.”

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