Hundreds stranded on North Carolina island, 'catastrophic' flooding as Dorian moves off coast

Image: Ocracoke Island, NC ONE TIME USE
The Ocracoke Village Fire Department was used as a command center Friday on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Copyright Connie Leinbach Ocracoke Observer via AP
By Phil Helsel with NBC News U.S. News
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"We went from almost no water to 4 to 6 feet in a matter of minutes," said Steve Harris, who lives on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.


Helicopters airlifted food and water to stranded residents of a North Carolina Outer Banks island Friday after it suffered "catastrophic flooding" as Hurricane Dorian swept up the coast, the governor said.

Dorian, a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, was quickly moving away from the Mid-Atlantic states Friday night and heading for Nova Scotia, the National Hurricane Center said.

But the storm surge left behind inundated Ocracoke Island where about 800 people stayed during the hurricane, Gov. Roy Cooper said.

"Currently the island has no electricity, and many homes and buildings are still underwater," Cooper said, adding officials "have heard reports from residents who say the flooding there was catastrophic."

Connie Leinbach
The Ocracoke Village Fire Department was used as a command center Friday on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.Connie Leinbach

The island with a population of about 940 is accessible only by boat or air. Cooper said medical and search and rescue teams were on the way.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Cape Hatteras, north of Ocracoke Island, at around 9 a.m. Friday as the storm, which devastated parts of the Bahamas and killed at least 43 people earlier this week, moved away from the U.S. East Coast, forecasters and officials said.

The storm also caused damage on Cape Hatteras and other parts of the Outer Banks, leaving them without power, Cooper said.

Residents of Ocracoke Island who stayed behind described flooding on a scale they had never seen before.

"The wall of water just came rushing through the island from the sound side. And it just started looking like a bathtub, very quickly," Steve Harris, who has lived on the island for most of the last 19 years, told The Associated Press.

"We went from almost no water to 4 to 6 feet in a matter of minutes," Harris said.

He lives on the third floor of a condo building but lost his car to the storm, and he told the AP that people there were getting around by boat.

More than 135,000 customers lost power and more than 81 roads across North Carolina were closed because of flooding or debris, Cooper said.

In South Carolina, which was lashed by the hurricane before it hit the Outer Banks, utility company Dominion Energy said crews were working "24/7" to restore electricity to 47,000 customers.

In Virginia, Norfolk was hit with tidal flooding and Cape Henry with wind gusts of 70 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas after making landfall as a Category 5 storm earlier this week. At least 43 people are dead, a spokesman for the prime minister said Friday, and the number is expected to increase significantly.

An estimated 13,000 homes were destroyed, and thousands of people were listed as missing.

The hurricane poses a threat to Nova Scotia, Canada, where heavy winds were expected late Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Paul Mason, executive director of Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office, said in a video message Friday that the whole province could be affected, and he said rain and winds of around 150 km and hour, or around 93 mph, could occur.


The hurricane was expected to pass about 120 miles southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, where a tropical storm warning was in effect for the island.

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