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Hurricane Dorian, still Category 2, passing southeast coast of South Carolina

Key Points
  • Hurricane Dorian left tens of thousands without power early Thursday and inundated low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia after a deadly surge in the Bahamas.
  • The Category 2 storm is moving northeast at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. 
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Mayor Brenda Bethune signed a declaration of civil emergency as a precaution Thursday afternoon as the hurricane was nearing the area.
Bill Olesner walks down South Battery St. while cleaning debris from storm drains on September 5, 2019 in Charleston, South Carolina. Hurricane Dorian is just off the coast of South Carolina.
Sean Rayford | Getty Images

The eye of Dorian, still a Category 2 storm, is passing south and southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The hurricane left tens of thousands without power early Thursday and inundated low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia after a deadly surge in the Bahamas.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Mayor Brenda Bethune signed a declaration of civil emergency as a precaution Thursday afternoon as the hurricane was nearing the area. The order allows Bethune to issue safety measures in cases of emergency.

Dorian is now 45 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach inching closer to North Carolina. According to the National Hurricane Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measured sustained winds of 67 mph and a gust up to 83 mph in the southern eyewall of Dorian.

The Category 2 storm is moving northeast at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.

The Outer Banks in North Carolina, which are barrier islands off the coast of the state in the Atlantic Ocean, are blocked from access in Dare County as Dorian approaches.

According to officials, there will be no access into Dare County effective at 8 p.m. Thursday. In addition, curfews have been established for all areas of the county except the town of Kitty Hawk beginning at 8 p.m. through at least noon on Friday.

Officials also predict that the storm surge from ocean and soundside flooding will be four to seven feet off the ground, not including wave action.

The city of Charleston said nearly 150 trees were toppled by Dorian's strong winds and rain, according to The Associated Press. They also said 108 roads are closed in Charleston due to flooding and power lines being knocked down.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 238,000 people in South Carolina — about 9% of utility company customers in the state tracked by PowerOutage.US — were currently without power, according to the website. Georgia is also experiencing a mass power outage, leaving more than 7,000 residents without electricity. More than 6,900 outages are reported in North Carolina.

Dorian still continues to bring "life-threatening storm surge, winds and heavy rainfall," according to NHC.

The hurricane center's storm surge warning remains in effect for the coasts of North and South Carolina. Water levels are rising even more as strong winds from the eye of Dorian are striking closer to the coasts.

As Dorian started advancing close to South Carolina late Wednesday night, winds picked up and sent sheets of rain sideways as thunder boomed in the night sky and power flickered on and off in places. Heavy flooding had already begun early Thursday morning in downtown Charleston, with water as deep as three to five feet, according to videos posted on social media.

The National Weather Service also ordered numerous tornado watch warnings over eastern North Carolina Thursday morning and warned residents to seek shelter inside buildings.

Several homes and infrastructure were destroyed by a tornado that ripped through Emerald Isle in North Carolina around 9 a.m. The U.S. National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City shared photos of the tornado's aftermath.

Over the weekend, Dorian crashed into the Bahamas as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, leaving widespread devastation and at least 20 people dead. But it weakened substantially in the days since, dropping from a Category 5 to a Category 2 storm on Tuesday. The hurricane's maximum sustained wind speed has changed between 110 mph and 115 mph since late Wednesday.

Dorian could maintain this intensity for several days or so before gradually weakening through Saturday, according to the NHC.

CHARLESTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 5: A car rives around a fallen tree branch on Calhoun St on September 4, 2019 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Sean Rayford | Getty Images

Preparing for Dorian

In Charleston's downtown, stores and restaurants were boarded up with wood and corrugated metal by Thursday morning and about 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast.

A flood chart posted by the National Weather Service projected a combined high tide and storm surge around Charleston Harbor of 10.3 feet; the record, 12.5 feet, was set by Hugo in 1989.

Hundreds of thousands also were ordered off the Georgia coast.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper warned of the threat of storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains. The Outer Banks were particularly exposed.

The Navy ordered ships at its huge base in Norfolk, Virginia, to head to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, were being moved inland. The commander of the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic issued an emergency evacuation order for military personnel and their dependents in five North Carolina counties.

Peter Gaynor, acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said 4,000 federal responders; 6,000 National Guard members; and 40,000 utility workers were on standby.

"We are ready to go," Gaynor said. "We'll follow Dorian up the coast until it is not a threat."

Meanwhile, there was widespread relief Wednesday after the storm passed Florida from a relatively safe distance offshore. The state was initially projected to take a direct hit from Dorian. Orlando's airport reopened, as did Walt Disney World and Universal.

VIDEO1:4201:42
Watch Air Force's Hurricane Hunters fly directly into Hurricane Dorian

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Comcast is parent of both NBCUniversal and CNBC.

Correction: The Outer Banks in North Carolina are blocked from access in Dare County. An earlier version misstated where they were blocked. Nine percent of utility company customers in South Carolina tracked by PowerOutage.US were without power. An earlier version mischaracterized the percentage. Dorian reached the Bahamas as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record. An earlier version misstated its strength.