CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Blustery wind and sideways rain lashed the low-lying coast of South and North Carolina on Thursday as Hurricane Dorian churned off shore, downing power lines and stately live oak trees, spawning tornadoes and threatening hundreds of thousands of coastal residents with intense flooding.
After pounding the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 20 people, the erratic and wobbly storm weakened early in the week only to pick up strength briefly overnight Wednesday and then weaken again. By Thursday morning, Dorian was a high Category 2, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.
While the lower part of South Carolina got off more lightly than expected -- Gov. Henry McMaster lifted evacuation orders early Thursday afternoon for three of eight coastal counties -- the upper part of the state was still at risk of major flooding.
The water on Front Street in Georgetown, S.C., was a foot deep and rising, McMaster said, and as much as 4 feet of water inundated Ocean Boulevard in North Myrtle Beach.
"It is still a very dangerous storm," McMaster said Thursday afternoon. "It is impossible to predict exactly where it is going to go and what is going to happen."
Shortly after 9 a.m., a tornado touched down in Emerald Isle, a long barrier island in central North Carolina, knocking down rows of mobile homes in the Boardwalk RV park.
More than 100 miles southwest, near the border of North and South Carolina, another tornado hit the small fishing town of Calabash, N.C., blazing a trail of damage all the way to the nearby seaside town of Sunset Beach.
"During hurricanes, tornadoes can form quickly with little warning," North Carolina Emergency Management warned on Twitter, noting that the threat of tornadoes would continue across parts of central and eastern North Carolina through Friday as Dorian's bands expand north.
As the eye of the storm passed this historic city, blasting Charleston Harbor with wind gusts of 80 mph, it was forecast to veer close to coastal South Carolina on Thursday afternoon, possibly making landfall in the evening or Friday morning in North Carolina.
By Thursday afternoon, the storm had knocked out power for about 250,000 homes and businesses across South Carolina.