Coastal communities across South and North Carolina scrambled Wednesday to prepare for the wind and rain of Hurricane Dorian, which forecasters predicted would come ashore on Thursday.
The one-time Category 5 storm that ravaged the Bahamas earlier this week had been downgraded to a Category 2 but increased to a Category 3 by early Wednesday morning.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued warnings about Dorian’s potential to pummel towns with huge storm surges, torrential rain and wind gusts up to 105 mph.
With Beaufort County, South Carolina, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina in its sights, Dorian was moving gradually northward from waters off the coast of Florida at about 9 mph.
Though Florida was spared much of the storm’s wrath, Dorian caused major headaches along the Florida coast, especially at gas stations.
As the hurricane approached over the weekend, local media relying on the website fuel tracker GasBuddy reported that roughly a third of gas stations in the areas around Daytona Beach, Melbourne and even Orlando were empty.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal ran photos of red “out of service” bags draped over pumps and reported that high demand by evacuating motorists was draining supplies faster than they could be replenished.
On Wednesday, Sherif Bedros, manager of a Sunoco gas station in Daytona Beach, said he was out of gas but anticipated his tanks would be refilled by nightfall.
“Saturday, Sunday and Monday we had so many customers,” Mr. Bedros told The Washington Times. “We sold so much gas that we sold it all out. But we’re surviving.”
Farther north at Florida’s Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, alcohol sales in bars and grocery stores were banned.
Local officials had grown concerned that beach community residents were too complacent about hurricane warnings, according to The Florida Times-Union. The towns also had a legacy of residents refusing to evacuate during severe weather.
But just west of Jacksonville Beach, stores reported heavy sales of alcohol sales Wednesday.
“We’re booming,” said Laura Moreno, an employee at Classic Wine and Spirits in the city of Jacksonville. “People want to stock up and watch the storm. They come in and grab some gin.”
The Georgia and South Carolina coasts were busy evacuating Wednesday, as meteorologists predicted Dorian would arrive and trigger flash flooding.
The National Hurricane Center forecast storm surges of 3 to 6 feet, with rainfall totals reaching as much as 15 inches.
The picturesque harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina, had emptied out. A local ABC News affiliate showed empty downtown streets and reported that officials were estimating 360,000 evacuees were on the move in the state.
Nearby Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Parris Island recruit depot also were being evacuated.
Stars and Stripes reported that in 26 U.S. warships had departed from the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, with more evacuations from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.
Ships re to remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Beth Baker was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile in the Bahamas, rescue and recovery efforts were struggling to deal with ruined airports after the storm hovered over the island nation from Sunday to Tuesday — at times with winds topping 185 mph, storm surges and at least seven deaths.
“We can expect more deaths to be recorded,” Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Wednesday, according to CNN. “Our priority is search, rescue and recovery.”
According to the National Hurricane Center, Dorian is one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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