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Hurricane Dorian could swamp the coast from Florida to Virginia

Volunteer Steve McVey dumped a load of chardonnay grapes Wednesday as Williamsburg Winery employees rushed to harvest the grapes before the expected rain from Hurricane Dorian. Rob Ostermaier/The Daily Press via Associated Press/The Daily Press via AP

Hurricane Dorian, which caused widespread devastation in the Bahamas, was churning Wednesday off the Atlantic coast, with residents along hundreds of miles of shoreline warned of its potential for life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds.

The hurricane, with winds of 110 miles per hour, was about 150 miles south of Charleston, S.C., and 275 miles southwest of Wilmington, N.C., and moving slowly to the northwest at 8 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. advisory.

A storm surge warning was extended to Poquoson, Va., including Hampton Roads.

Meteorologists warned residents of shore communities from Daytona Beach, Fla., to Virginia that they faced “a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water” within the next 36 hours. In some parts of North and South Carolina, the storm surge could reach 5 to 8 feet.

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The storm’s heavy rains — 5 to 10 inches along the Carolina coast, with 15 inches possible in some spots — could also cause dangerous flash floods.

Dorian is expected to continue moving northward off the Florida and Georgia coasts through Wednesday night, followed by a turn to the north-northeast Thursday and a turn toward the northeast Thursday night, the National Hurricane Center said. Dorian’s center could be close to the Carolinas from Thursday through Friday morning.

Forecasters expect little change in the storm’s strength. By the time it is expected to brush by Wilmington early Friday, forecasters say it will probably still have winds as strong as 90 mph.

The storm is predicted to track close to Charleston by Thursday afternoon. Governor Henry McMaster has issued a mandatory evacuation for all of Charleston County, which has a population of more than 400,000.

About one-third of the 830,000 people ordered to leave coastal counties in South Carolina have already evacuated, McMaster said Tuesday.

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Last week Dorian was inviting comparisons to Andrew, the 1992 monster that ripped through the Miami area as a Category 5 storm, causing widespread damage.

Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Aug. 28, and advised Floridians to have seven days’ worth of supplies on hand. There was a run on gasoline and bottled water, and the attorney general’s office was investigating hundreds of complaints of price gouging.

By Friday, it had become a Category 4 storm over the Atlantic Ocean with winds of 130 miles per hour, and President Trump approved an emergency declaration for Florida.

Instead it was the Bahamas, parts of which were wiped out over the weekend, that suffered the worst destruction. Florida was spared the wrath of Dorian.