Hurricane Dorian is expected to hit the North Carolina coast later Friday, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest forecast update, before moving more quickly up the U.S. eastern seaboard towards New England over the coming 48 hours.
Dorian's wind speeds have slowed to around 90 miles per hour, the NHC noted, but its eye is set to pass over Cape Lookout, North Carolina with sustained gusts and torrential rains and its gathers speed after inching north from Florida and the Bahamas.
"The center should move to the southeast of extreme southeastern New England tonight and Saturday morning, and then across Nova Scotia late Saturday or Saturday night," the NHC said. "Dorian should remain a powerful hurricane as it moves near or along the coast of North Carolina during the next several hours. Dorian is forecast to become a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds by Saturday night as it approaches Nova Scotia."
North Carolina Governor Ray Cooper warned residents that more than 10 inches of rain could inundate the state's Atlantic coast, noting the storm's most recent projections were "more dire" than first anticipated.
President Donald Trump, who has Tweeted direct messages of support to several states along Dorian's path, said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were on the ground in North Carolina and that the White House was closely monitoring the storm.
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.