Skies cleared and floodwaters receded Saturday from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, leaving behind a muddy trail of destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian, which turned north and began lashing parts of eastern Canada.
Dorian’s worst damage in the U.S. appeared to be on Ocracoke Island, which even in good weather is accessible only by boat or air and is popular with tourists for its undeveloped beaches. Longtime residents who hunkered down to wait out the storm described strong but manageable winds followed by a wall of water that flooded the first floors of many homes and forced some to await rescue from their attics.
Gov. Roy Cooper said about 800 people had remained on the island to wait out Dorian. The storm made landfall Friday morning over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the monster that devastated the Bahamas. Yet despite having been downgraded to a Category-1 storm, it still sent seawater surging into homes on Ocracoke, many for the first time in memory.
More than 1,100 Bahamians arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, after being evacuated by cruise ship from their hurricane-battered islands.
The Grand Celebration cruise ship returned to its home port after setting sail Thursday for Freeport, Grand Bahama, to deliver more than 112 tons of supplies and ferry dozens of health workers and emergency crews.
As it approached Canada, Dorian briefly strengthened to a Category-2 storm with winds of 100 mph before weakening to a strong Category-1 storm with winds of 93 mph on Saturday afternoon, Canadian officials said.
Forecasters said the center of Dorian was expected to move across central or eastern Nova Scotia late Saturday afternoon or early evening, pass near or over Prince Edward Island late Saturday, and then move to Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday. Outer bands of Dorian already were producing strong winds and heavy rain in southern New Brunswick and mainland Novia Scotia. Meteorologists expected the storm to weaken to a Category-1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall.
Canadian officials prepared for the possibility of flooding, washouts and storm surges, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the military was mobilizing to assist Nova Scotia.
Officials in Halifax, the Nova Scotian capital and home to 400,000 people, urged downtown businesses to close by 5 p.m.
“We do not want the citizens of Halifax roaming downtown as the water is coming in,” said Erica Fleck, Halifax’s assistant chief of community risk reduction.
Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare in part because once the storms reach colder Canadian waters, they lose their main source of energy. Hubbard said the last hurricanes to make landfall in Canada were Hurricane Igor and Hurricane Earl in September 2010.
While tropical-storm force winds buffeted southeastern Massachusetts and could sweep into Maine later Saturday, hurricane-force winds are unlikely to pose any threat to land in the U.S.
In North Carolina, the governor said officials were aware of no serious injuries on the Outer Banks from the storm. About 200 people were in shelters and 57,000 without power as of midday Saturday, according to the governor’s office. Emergency officials transported fuel trucks, generators, food and water to Okracoke.
“We just thought it was gonna be a normal blow,” Steve Harris, a semi-retired contractor, said Friday. “But the damage is going to be severe this time. This is flooding of biblical proportions.”
Harris lost his car to the storm and his air-conditioner is damaged, but he said he’s blessed that his condominium is on the third floor and he is insured.
The U.S. Coast Guard began landing local law enforcement officers on the island Friday by helicopter and airlifting out the sick, elderly and others in distress, Hyde County authorities said. Officers were doing door-to-door checks and offering water and food to residents, according to the sheriff’s office.
At least four deaths in the Southeast were blamed on Dorian. All were men in Florida or North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane. North Carolina’s governor on Saturday urged returning residents to be vigilant, as many of the injuries and deaths from previous storms happened during the cleanup process.
Dorian slammed the Bahamas at the start of the week with 185 mph winds, killing at least 43 people and obliterating countless homes. From there, it swept past Florida and Georgia, then sideswiped the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes that peeled away roofs and flipped recreational vehicles.
Still, the damage was far less than feared in many parts of the Carolinas, including historic Charleston, South Carolina, which is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, and Wilmington, North Carolina, the state’s biggest coastal city.