Hurricane Dorian strengthens to Cat 3 as storm tracks toward North Carolina coast

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Hurricane Dorian has become a Category 2 storm tracking up the Southeast seaboard toward North Carolina.

At 11 a.m. the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Dorian was located 50 miles east/southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, and 275 miles south of Raleigh. The storm downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 miles per hour; it is moving north/northeast at 8 mph.

Dorian is expected to continue to pass dangerously close to North Carolina coast on Thursday night or Friday morning–bringing the potential for more than a foot of rain in some spots as well as life-threatening storm surge.

“Hurricane Dorian is ready to unleash its fury on our state,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Thursday press conference. “The storm has gained strength. Get to safety and stay there. Don’t let your guard down. Whether it comes to shore or not, the eye of the storm will be close enough to cause significant damage.”

Tornado Warnings were issued for parts of New Hanover County and Pender County Thursday morning. Video was shown on social media showing a possible tornado near a Pender County fire station.

Tornado Watches are in effect in South Carolina and in southeast North Carolina. Early bands of rain are stretching across Robeson and Bladen counties Thursday morning.

RADAR: See current location of rain from Hurricane Dorian

TIMING

ABC11 Meteorologist Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker said he expects the Raleigh area to start seeing scattered rain as early as lunchtime Thursday, with more consistent rain moving in during the evening hours (approximately 6 p.m.).

Heavy rain continues throughout the area overnight Thursday into Friday morning. By 7 a.m. Friday, most of the rain is shifting east. The majority of the rain is east of the I-95 corridor by 12 p.m. Friday.

By the end of the storm, the I-95 corridor could see between 4-8 inches of rain–with areas east seeing more and areas west seeing less.

STAY UP-TO-DATE on Hurricane Dorian coverage: Download the ABC11 app here.

The storm is predicted to pick up speed as it passes North Carolina. That makes it less likely Dorian would dump vast amounts of rain as happened last year during Florence, State Emergency Management Meteorologist Katie Webster said.

“This is a fairly fast moving storm and after talking with the (National) Hurricane Center we have good confidence that that storm will be moving quickly as it crosses our coast,” she said. “I think at this point we are not anticipating the large amounts of rain that we saw in Hurricane Florence.”

RELATED: How does Hurricane Dorian compare to Florence and Matthew

WATCH: Outer Banks conditions Thursday morning ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s arrival

WATCH: Rain from Hurricane Dorian begins falling in Wilmington

WATCH: Shelters in Fayetteville prepared for Hurricane Dorian evacuees

Cooper said in a news conference Wednesday that an 85-year-old Columbus County man was the first storm-related death in North Carolina. Cooper said the man fell from a ladder as he was preparing his home for the storm.

WEATHER ALERTS

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Wake County. It also includes Harnett, Franklin, Johnston and extends south to Bladen and east to Lenoir and Pitt counties. Counties east of the Tropical Storm Warning are under a Hurricane Warning.

The difference in the warnings is the speed of sustained wind the included areas are expected to see. Click here for the full list of weather advisories.

RELATED: Schools announce closings as Hurricane Dorian nears North Carolina

POWER OUTAGES

Power outages are likely from Hurricane Dorian–although the extent of the outages are not yet known. Still, utility crews from Oklahoma are on their way to Raleigh to help.

The crews said they received help last week when they were struggling with outages, so they wanted to repay the good deed.

Cooper said Tuesday there will be a mandatory evacuation of all vulnerable coastal areas and two large shelters will be organized in the Triangle to help those displaced by Hurricane Dorian.

PREPARE FOR THE STORM
What to know about generators before a power outage
Here’s what you actually need to prepare for Hurricane Dorian
North Carolina animal shelters taking in pets, livestock ahead of storm
What happens to your home in hurricane-force winds?
Foods to stock up on before a storm hits

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