With a final sweep of storm surge, Hurricane Dorian heads out of Florida waters

The final tendrils of Hurricane Dorian’s winds and waves were crossing the border between Florida and Georgia Thursday night, leaving the state largely unscathed by the brutal storm that flattened the northern Bahamas and is heading toward the Carolina Coast as a Category 3 storm.

Florida saw damaging storm surge in the northern part of the state, with more than 150,000 power outages statewide and closures of schools, airports and businesses up and down the coast.

With most of the state back to business as usual, the relief work for the Bahamas — where at least 20 people were killed by the record-breaking storm — also began in earnest.

As of the 11 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Dorian was about 105 miles south of Charleston, S.C., and had increased from a Category 2 storm to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and higher gusts. All watches and warnings for the east coast of Florida have been discontinued.

Dorian’s winds slowed considerably as it made its agonizingly slow crawl up the Florida coast, but the hurricane grew in size. As it travels up the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas, the hurricane is expected to continue to push storm surge toward the East Coast and whirl tropical storm winds up to 195 miles from the eye of the storm.

“Any deviation to the left of the track could bring the center onshore anywhere in the Carolinas,” forecasters wrote.

Florida faced that same fate but fared much better when the powerful storm stayed offshore.

“Thankfully, obviously, the news out of Florida is positive,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said in a press conference from the state’s emergency operations center. “But that came at the expense of the folks in the Bahamas. The pictures that are coming out of there are just unbelievable.” He said he thinks the death toll in the Bahamas will rise “to an extremely high number.”

“In fact, we may never really know what the number is out there,” he said.

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While Dorian is the only current threat to the U.S., the Atlantic basin is active, a sign that it’s the annual peak of hurricane season. Tropical Storm Fernand made landfall in northeast Mexico Wednesday afternoon with 45 mph winds. Tropical Storm Gabrielle, out in the eastern Atlantic, is strengthening but headed on a course north into the empty ocean.

Two other disturbances are floating around in the Atlantic — one to the northeast of Bermuda and another expected to emerge from Africa’s west coast as a tropical wave some time Wednesday. It has a 50 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression sometime this week, the NHC said.

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Bureau staff reporter Lawrence Mower and Miami Herald staff reporter Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

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Real Time/Breaking News Reporter. There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and I cover it. Graduated with honors from Florida International University. Find me on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
Alex Harris covers climate change for the Miami Herald, including how South Florida communities are adapting to the warming world. She attended the University of Florida.