(ABC News) – Hurricane Dorian has killed at least seven in the Bahamas, as well as an elderly man in North Carolina, as the storm looms close to the Southeast coast.
Dorian, now a Category 2, is churning parallel to northeast Florida and might make landfall as it inches closer to the Carolinas.
Dorian first slammed into the Bahamas on Sunday afternoon as a Category 5, the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record.
At least seven people were killed on the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas, where the storm made landfall.
“We can expect more deaths to be recorded,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told reporters Tuesday. “Our priority at this time is search, rescue and recovery.”
The storm hovered over the archipelago’s northern islands for nearly two days, leveling dozens of buildings, flooding roads and submerging an airport.
Theo Neilly, the Bahamas consul general to the United States, said the greatest need is for water, non-perishable food, generators, tents and tarp poles.
“We’re receiving supplies and we’re looking for people who can assist with shipping,” Neilly told ABC News on Tuesday.
The British Royal Navy was expected to deliver food to the hard-hit Abaco Islands Tuesday night, according to the Bahamian prime minister. The U.S. Department of State said it’s providing humanitarian assistance, and the U.S. Coast Guard said it’s rescued 61 people.
‘You need to evacuate now’
Dorian is now hovering just off the coast of Florida, pummeling the Sunshine State with rain, wind and intense storm surge, eroding the beach in Cape Canaveral.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the entire South Carolina and North Carolina coastline, where a dangerous storm surge of up to 8 feet is expected. A tropical storm watch even extends into southern Virginia.
One storm-related death already struck North Carolina. An 85-year-old man fell off a ladder while preparing his Columbus County home for Dorian, Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday.
“Today is the day to finish preparing, and I urge everyone to do so with safety in mind,” Cooper said. “We will be ready and we will not underestimate the damage this storm can cause.”
As Dorian loomed, evacuations were ordered from Florida’s east coast to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, told Univision that undocumented immigrants should not “worry about immigration enforcement during the storm — worry about staying safe.”
“There will be no routine immigration enforcement during this storm or in the immediate aftermath of this storm,” McAleenan said.
Melbourne Beach, Florida, resident Nancy Whiting lives in an evacuation area, but she opted to ride out the storm in her home — the same as she did for Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 — to address leaks right as they hit.
“A lot of the neighbors stayed back. They tend to hunker down, just ride out the storm. They’ve been through a lot of these before,” Whiting told ABC News. “This is what happens in Florida you stay and protect your property and help our your neighbors.”
But officials are urging those in evacuation zones to flee the coast immediately.
“There is no more time for hesitation,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted Tuesday night. “If you are in an evacuation zone you need to evacuate now.”
Although for some, evacuating isn’t an option. Frances Eason’s husband, David, is spending the hurricane in a Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, hospital.
“We went through [Hurricane] Hugo in 1989 and we went through Florence last October and several in between,” Frances Eason told ABC News. “We fared well through it all.”
“I think we’re safe here,” she said.
Dorian is forecast to pass Savannah, Georgia, overnight Wednesday into Thursday, bringing powerful 92 mph wind gusts.
The storm will then come close to Charleston, South Carolina, Thursday morning.
Authorities in Charleston are urging the residents who chose not to evacuate to stay off the roads; authorities say during a storm last year, 40 people were rescues from flooded cars.
From Charleston, the storm will approach North Carolina’s coast. Dorian could possibly make landfall in Wilmington Thursday night or make landfall on the state’s barrier islands, the Outer Banks, early Friday morning as a Category 2 hurricane.
Dorian is expected to head out to sea by Friday evening.