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North Carolina island faces damage after Hurricane Dorian

Dorian is remaining at hurricane strength as it sweeps northward along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard on Saturday toward Atlantic Canada after battering the Carolinas earlier in the week.

Storm moving over Maritimes with hurricane-force winds

Cathy McCabe walks carefully on a destroyed fence as she makes her way to her damaged house after a tornado spawned by Hurricane Dorian ripped through Carolina Shores, N.C. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Dorian remains a hurricane as it sweeps up the U.S. Eastern Seaboard through Saturday after battering the Carolinas earlier in the week.

As Dorian closed in on the Maritimes, it strengthened to Category 2 status with sustained winds reaching 160 km/h, with gusts up to 195 km/h.

As the sky cleared and floodwaters receded in North Carolina on Saturday, residents of the state's Outer Banks began to assess the damage wrought by Dorian to the islands.

The worst damage in the U.S. appeared to be on Ocracoke Island, which even in good weather is accessible only by boat or air and is popular with tourists for its undeveloped beaches. Longtime residents who hunkered down to wait out the storm described strong but manageable winds followed by a wall of water that flooded the first floors of many homes and forced some to await rescue from their attics.

"We're used to cleaning up dead limbs and trash that's floating around," said Ocracoke Island resident and business owner Philip Howard. "But now it's everything: picnic tables, doors, lumber that's been floating around."

Howard said by phone Saturday that flooding at his properties on the North Carolina island is 33 centimetres higher than the levels wrought by a storm in 1944, which he said had long been considered the worst. He raised his home higher than the 1944 flood level and still got water inside.

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"It's overwhelming," said Howard, who owns the Village Craftsmen, a store that sells handcrafted pottery, glass and kitchen items. He said much of the merchandise on the lower shelves is ruined. Pieces of pottery were floating around inside.

Inside his house, the floorboards were buckling and curling up after being warped by the water, he said.

Parts of air-conditioning systems lie in the parking lot of a condominium complex that was damaged by Hurricane Dorian in Nags Head, N.C., on Saturday. (Amanda Becker/Reuters)

Gov. Roy Cooper said about 800 people had remained on the island to wait out Dorian.

His office said in a news release Saturday that emergency officials have transported fuel trucks, generators, and food and water to Ocracoke.

The news release says about 200 people were in shelters and about 57,000 were without electricity throughout North Carolina as of midday.

The storm made landfall Friday morning over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the monster that devastated the Bahamas. Yet despite having been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, it still sent seawater surging over neighbourhoods, flooding the first floors of many homes.

"There is significant concern about hundreds of people trapped on Ocracoke Island," Cooper said.

(CBC)

At least four deaths in the southeast were blamed on Dorian. All were men in Florida or North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane.

As Dorian closed in, more than a quarter-million residents and visitors were ordered to evacuate the Outer Banks, which stick out from the Eastern Seaboard like the sideview mirror on a car. But many just tied down their boats, removed objects that could blow away from their yards, and hunkered down.

Dorian slammed the Bahamas at the start of the week with 295 km/h winds, killing at least 43 people and obliterating countless homes. From there, it swept past Florida and Georgia, then sideswiped the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes that peeled away roofs and flipped recreational vehicles.

Watch Facebook video taken on Ocracoke Island Friday morning:

Still, the damage was far less than feared in many parts of the Carolinas, including historic Charleston, S.C., which is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms, and Wilmington, N.C., the state's biggest coastal city.

"Right now, it appears we've had no loss of life," Harris said of Ocracoke. "We're trying to make sure everybody is safe, but it's going to be a long recovery."

With files from CBC News

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