STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The map from the National Hurricane Center now shows Hurricane Dorian crowding the coast of South Carolina. Having unleashed massive destruction on the Bahamas, we wait to see what happens next. And Ray Hawthorne is waiting with us and also monitoring events. He's a meteorologist. He's at WUFT in Gainesville, Fla. Good morning.
RAY HAWTHORNE: Hi there, Steve.
INSKEEP: Maybe we can begin by getting a description of this storm as it is now in terms of its size, speed and power.
HAWTHORNE: Well, right now, the hurricane is a Category 2 hurricane. Steve, briefly last night, it got back up to Category 3 status as it approached the coast of South Carolina. It stayed as a Category 3 for most of this morning. Now, it is a Category 2 with top sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. The size of the storm has actually been getting larger. Originally, Dorian was a relatively small hurricane when it was in the Bahamas in terms of its overall size. But the winds are now much, much larger. And we have tropical storm force winds, Steve, that are extending outward more than 140 miles from the center.
INSKEEP: Can we be relieved at all that it's larger? By which I mean, is it more diffuse and maybe less dangerous at any one point?
HAWTHORNE: Well, it's not, in fact, a lot less dangerous than it has been. Unfortunately, we've been seeing a lot of hurricane force wind gusts and tropical storm force winds along the coast of South Carolina. That is now starting to spread into North Carolina. And in addition to that, we've had quite a few reports of tornadoes this morning across parts of northeastern South Carolina not too far from Myrtle Beach.
INSKEEP: Now, I'm looking at the National Hurricane Center map here, and it does show Dorian, shows its path, and it looks like it would gradually come - or could gradually come - into more and more collision with the Outer Banks in North Carolina and other parts of North Carolina. Is that right?
HAWTHORNE: Yeah, that's exactly right. It looks like the hurricane could pass right over the Outer Banks. So that would be coming up either late tonight or early on Friday morning. And then as it passes through the Outer Banks, it's going to continue off to the north and northeast from there. And there will be tropical storm force winds as far north as the Delmarva Peninsula. And even beyond then, there are now tropical storm watches in effect for parts of New England. The storm will stay offshore, but the storm is large enough where there will be tropical storm force winds, perhaps on Nantucket.
INSKEEP: How does the geography of the Outer Banks come into play here? For those who can't - haven't been there, can't quite picture it in their heads, we're talking about these narrow, long barrier islands, but they are way, way, way off the coast at that point.
HAWTHORNE: Yeah. They're way off the coast, and they are very susceptible to hurricanes. They can get them quite a bit. Even storms that are recurving out into the Atlantic Ocean, as this one is about to start doing very soon, they're sitting out there off the coast of North Carolina, and hurricanes often hit those islands. And it looks like it's going to be close to doing that. And in fact, it may just move right over the islands based on the latest forecast from the Hurricane Center - again, later tonight into tomorrow morning with hurricane force conditions.
INSKEEP: My recollection is that last year mainland North Carolina had serious problems from hurricane rain. Is that - is inland flooding a danger here?
HAWTHORNE: It is. And we've seen a lot of rain this morning. Flash flood warnings have been in effect from Charleston. And just inland from Charleston - same situation farther north in Myrtle Beach. And just inland from Myrtle Beach, we've already seen rainfall amounts of 5 and 6 inches. There are going to be more in the way of heavier rainfall coming up. Rainfall amounts could reach 15 inches across parts of the North Carolina coast coming up, and it may not be out of here until possibly Friday afternoon.
INSKEEP: Wow. Any danger the storm could stall again as it did over the Bahamas?
HAWTHORNE: No chance of that happening this time, Steve. So, obviously, this has been a tough forecast to make. But what's happening now is the storm is starting to recurve into the middle latitude westerlies. So the storm will move from southwest to northeast. And it will continue to accelerate. And I think by later this weekend, it's going to be over the Maritime provinces of Canada, rather, and then finally heading on off into the North Atlantic.
INSKEEP: Mr. Hawthorne, thanks for the update.
HAWTHORNE: You're very welcome.
INSKEEP: Ray Hawthorne is at WUFT in Gainesville, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.