Hurricane Dorian's wind speeds accelerated overnight, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday, as its storm track turned towards the Carolina and New England coasts after dumping torrential rains and billions in flood damages over the Bahamas.

The NHC lifted its assessment of Dorian to a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and pegged its location at 80 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. It also noted sustained wind speeds of around 115 miles per hour, a pace it could maintain for the next few days as it turns north from the Florida coast and heads towards the Carolinas. 

"On the forecast track, the center of Dorian will continue to move close to the coast of South Carolina through the day, and then move near or over the coast of North Carolina tonight and Friday," the NHC said." The center should move to the southeast of extreme southeastern New England Friday night and Saturday morning, and approach Nova Scotia later on Saturday."

Duke Energy said late Wednesday it expects power outages to affect around 700,000 homes in the Carolinas as Dorian makes landfall, while more than 1,500 people have taken shelter in around 30 different shelters set up around the state of South Carolina.

"We thought it was coming and here it is," said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster during a news conference late Wednesday. "Our message today is, if you are still in an evacuation zone, you still have time to get out. But time is running out."

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, meanwhile, cautioned that he was "very worried" for residents of the state's barrier islands, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he would mobilize the state's National Guard after declaring a state of emergency earlier this week.

In Florida, where the storm was originally forecast to make landfall, airports and tourist attractions announced plans to re-open as Dorian moved north, while officials in the Bahamas focused on cleaning up the severe flooding and billions in damages across the islands in what Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called "one of the greatest national crises in our country's history."