Along its punishing path over the last 13 days, Dorian bashed the U.S. Virgin Islands, bombarded the northern Bahamas, grazed Florida, and scraped the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas. It's now set to bruise the coasts of the Mid-Atlantic and extreme southeast New England in its penultimate act before jetting off to the Canadian Maritimes.
On Friday, Sept. 6, eastern North Carolina, southeast Virginia and the southern Delmarva Peninsula will take a blast from Dorian's heavy rain, strong winds, and storm surge through the morning and afternoon. Several locations along the North Carolina Outer Banks had already reported wind gusts up to 95 mph as the eyewall, the hurricane's zone of the most severe weather surrounding its center, passed over early Friday.
"Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are expected to continue along portions of the North Carolina coast, portions of southeast Virginia and the southern Chesapeake Bay," the National Hurricane Center wrote Friday morning. "Flash flooding is occurring, and will continue to become more widespread across the eastern Carolinas and far southeast Virginia this morning."
By Friday night and Saturday morning the accelerating storm will blow by extreme eastern Massachusetts, 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 took more mercy on the United States, even as it produced upward of ten inches of rain, areas of coastal and inland flooding, tornadoes, and wind gusts up to 50 to 80 mph from Florida coast to the Carolinas.
The storm has endured for what seems like an eternity. Friday marks 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 7 a.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Dorian was 30 miles west-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and the storm's eyewall battered the North Carolina Outer Banks. Doran was barreling northeast at 14 mph, a marked increase in speed compared to the past five days.
On its current trajectory, the eye of the storm could officially make landfall over the Outer Banks Friday morning, or barely miss making a landfall in the mainland U.S. entirely, instead having traced the curves of the Southeast coastline.
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 "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 45 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 220 miles.
On Friday morning, radar showed the storm's powerful feeder bands sweeping inland from Wilmington, North Carolina, north to near Ocean City, Maryland. The core of the storm, including its eyewall, was passing over the Outer Banks. Winds were sustained at 50 to 70 mph with gusts up to around to 95 mph. Cape Lookout had clocked a gust to 94 mph, Cedar Island 96 mph, and Ocracoke 89 mph.
About 200,000 customers were without power in North Carolina and 160,000 in South Carolina.
Several flash flooding warnings were in effect in eastern North Carolina. The National Weather Service predicted rainfall rates of up two inches per hour in both eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia. Wilmington, North Carolina, where the rain is ending, received nearly 10 inches.
The worst of the conditions in the North Carolina Outer Banks, under a hurricane warning, should ease by midday
Virginia Beach to the southern Delmarva are expected to be scraped by the storm through Friday afternoon, with heavy rains, tropical-storm-force winds and coastal flooding due to storm surge (the storm-driven rise in water above normally dry land). A tropical storm warning is in effect from the North Carolina-Virginia border to Chincoteague, and for the Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point southward. Winds in this area could reach 50 to 65 mph.
Rainfall totals here are expected to reach 3 to 8 inches, and locally up to 10 inches, especially in southeast Virginia where there is a moderate to high risk of flash flooding.
In this zone, which includes the Hampton Roads, the storm surge could raise water levels two to four feet above normally dry land around high tide late Friday afternoon. "There will be SIGNIFICANT flood from Storm Surge," the National Weather Service tweeted. In a separate briefing, it warned that the surge could flood "numerous roads and buildings, resulting in a significant threat to life and property."
A Tropical Storm Warning has also been issued from north of Chincoteague, Virginia, to Fenwick Island, Delaware, for the Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point to Drum Point, and for the tidal Potomac River south of Cobb Island. This area sits along the western edge of where significant wind and rain are possible and may or may not experience tropical-storm conditions. Peak wind gusts here could reach 40 to 50 mph with rainfall of 1 to 3 inches.
While the storm could bring tropical-storm conditions to the tidal Potomac south of Cobb Island, it is not forecast to send a storm surge riding up the Potomac River toward Washington, D.C.
The storm is expected to remain at hurricane strength through Friday night as it races northeastward. Tropical storm warnings have been hoisted as far north as extreme southeastern New England, including parts of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, even though the center of Dorian is expected to stay about 150 miles offshore there.
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 Newfoundland and Nova Scotia beginning Saturday, where hurricane watches have been posted.
This article was written by Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow, reporters for The Washington Post.