Sept. 6 (UPI) — “Catastrophic flooding” on Ocracoke Island has left hundreds of people stranded on the North Carolina Outer Banks island in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, state and local officials said Friday.
The U.S. Coast Guard used helicopters to help transport crews from the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office to the island to conduct search and rescue missions as at least 2 feet of water inundated the 18-mile-long island. Officials warned people on Ocracoke to get to the highest point in the homes after 6.5 inches of rain fell amid a storm surge.
“Reports are coming in of catastrophic flooding on Ocracoke Island. Sheriff Cahoon along with Emergency Management has decided to send 3 mainland deputies, 2 medics, NC Wildlife, and Marine Patrol assets to Ocracoke Island to assist,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
The office posted photos and videos of the flooded island, calling for prayers for the residents.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said up to 800 people were trapped on the island after Hurricane Dorian made landfall on nearby Cape Hatteras.
“The danger right now is the rising storm surge of 4 to 7 feet and flash floods as the hurricane churns along the coast,” he said during a news conference.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore warned residents of the Outer Banks islands about storm surge from the sound side of the island.
“On the backside of the storm, winds will push water from the sound onto the islands,” the national park wrote in a Facebook post.
“The water can rush in quickly as wind patterns shift. Residents of Hatteras and Ocracoke Island should be prepared for extensive sound-side surge.”
Nearly 300,000 households were without power in the Carolinas and Virginia early Friday, including 154,800 in North Carolina, 93,000 in South Carolina and 31,760 in Virginia.
More than a million people were warned to leave the Carolinas. Evacuations are also being ordered in Virginia.
Two deaths in North Carolina have been blamed on the storm — a man who fell from a ladder Wednesday and a man pulling his boat from the water died of a heart attack in Oriental, N.C.
Parts of North Carolina have received up to 8 inches of rain, with some areas getting as many as 10. Forecasters warned residents in coastal areas about potentially life-threatening storm surges.
Nearly two dozen tornadoes were reported Thursday from Dorian’s outer bands. At least four tornadoes were confirmed, all EF-1 twisters with winds of 95 mph to 100 mph. The largest was 350 yards wide and stayed on the ground for 12 miles.
“Dorian has North Carolina in its sights,” Cooper said Thursday. “We need people to hunker down and stay safe. We don’t need people leaving their homes.”
Friday will be a day of recovery for Charleston, S.C., where officials said thousands were without electricity, roads are flooded and trees are down throughout the city.
“Today was Dorian Day in Charleston, and I am happy to bid him farewell,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said Thursday. “To the hundreds of officials, and the outstanding citizens of Charleston, thank you. Tomorrow, we all unite as Team Charleston to recover.”
Hurricane Dorian was a Category 5 hurricane when it arrived in the Bahamas earlier this week causing massive destruction. The confirmed death toll climbed to 30 Thursday and is expected to increase.