Dorian evacuees head to North Carolina speedway

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OCRACOKE, N.C. (AP) — 5:55 p.m.

Emerald Isle in North Carolina is cleaning up after a tornado as Hurricane Dorian nears.

A North Carolina speedway continues to get evacuees from Hurricane Dorian.

Charlotte Motor Speedway spokesman Scott Cooper said in a statement that there were 69 campsites occupied by about 150 people impacted by Dorian as of Thursday afternoon. Cooper said many of them were arriving from the Wilmington area.

Cooper said the speedway's Rock City Campground remains open free of charge along with access to showers, the kids' playground and the pet park.

The speedway is offering free tours twice a day, and evacuees can sign up for a tour in the camping office. In addition, local businesses are providing complimentary meals this week, and some are dropping off coupons.

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5:55 p.m.

American Airlines says it flew a plane carrying 14,000 pounds of relief supplies to the Bahamas.

In a news release , the airline said a Boeing 737 flew from Miami to Nassau to drop off supplies for those affected by the devastation.

The airline is also giving frequent-flyer points to customers who donate at least $25 to the Red Cross.

American Airlines says airport operations are still being affected at airports in the Bahamas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

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5:55 p.m.

Not everyone in North Carolina's largest coastal city has hunkered down as Hurricane Dorian approaches.

A few bars remained open Thursday afternoon in downtown Wilmington as well as a Waffle House.

At the Husk Bar, about 50 people were packed inside. One television was playing The Weather Channel, one had local Dorian coverage and eight had sports or sitcoms.

Matthew Jewell came out for a bit before Dorian's worst was forecast to settle in after dark.

Jewell was walking back to his downtown home to ride out the storm. He described Dorian as "pretty docile" so far.

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5:20 p.m.

North Carolina officials say coastal areas have yet to see the worst from Hurricane Dorian despite apparent tornadoes and heavy rains as the storm approaches from the south.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday urged residents "to stay in a safe place and off the roads" while conditions deteriorate from south to north through the night and Friday morning.

Cooper says tornadoes had already been reported in five counties, and 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain had fallen in parts of the county where Wilmington is located.

More than 2,200 people are staying in 65 shelters. Flash flooding is still a big concern, and there are more than 15 road closures. Major river flooding is predicted for a portion of the Northeast Cape Fear River.

State meteorologist Katie Webster says she expected conditions to improve rapidly by Friday afternoon as the storm passes.

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5:20 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has lifted the mandatory evacuation order for Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton counties.

During a briefing Thursday, McMaster urged residents who were returning to their homes to heed re-entry orders by sheriff's offices and to use caution. He and other officials urged residents to avoid standing water, which might mask downed power lines or tree limbs, and to stay off the road unless absolutely necessary.

Evacuation orders remain for five other counties: Georgetown, Horry, Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester.

McMaster says Dorian remains "a very dangerous storm and it's still impossible to predict where it will go."

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5:05 p.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Dorian is expected to slowly weaken as it travels near and along the coasts of South and North Carolina.

In its 5 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center says Dorian has weakened slightly and remains a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (169 kph).

Its eye is located about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and is moving northeast at about 10 mph (16 kph).

Forecasters expect Dorian's eye to pass near or over parts of the North Carolina coast within the next 12 to 24 hours.

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5:05 p.m.

Members of the Rhode Island National Guard will be heading to the Bahamas to help with relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

State officials say the National Guard will mobilize three C-130J cargo aircraft that will depart from the Quonset Air National Guard Base on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Callahan says the Rhode Island National Guard has had a special connection with the Bahamas, through a training partnership with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force that began in 2005.

Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas , where the government's official death toll stands at 20 and is certain to climb. Thousands of people whose homes were destroyed are seeking help.

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4 p.m.

Hurricane Dorian is continuing to complicate air travel in the Southeast.

Airports in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Florence, South Carolina, were expected to remain closed until Friday morning.

According to FlightAware, more than 500 U.S. flights were canceled by mid-afternoon Thursday, with the largest numbers in Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.

Airlines have already canceled more than 200 flights scheduled for Friday, especially in an area from Norfolk, Virginia, to Savannah.

TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell says the agency has 120 employees who can be sent to the region to help screen passengers and baggage once air travel begins to return to normal.

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4 p.m.

Now that the worst of Hurricane Dorian has moved out of the Charleston, South Carolina, area, some residents are getting out to look at the aftermath — and even have a little fun.

Johnny Crawford hopped into his green kayak on Thursday afternoon to take a cruise down his flooded street in downtown Charleston. The area floods sometimes even without a tropical weather event, with water often covering sidewalks and streets.

The 46-year-old Crawford has lived in Charleston for more than half his life. He said that his only disappointment was that the water wasn't as deep as it had been earlier in the day, when the storm was still raging in the area.

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3:35 p.m.

Much of southeastern Virginia is shutting down as Hurricane Dorian churns up the Atlantic Coast.

Virginia Beach officials announced mandatory evacuations Thursday for the community of Sandbridge. The strip of land is home to beach houses that sit along the Atlantic Coast near the North Carolina border.

Voluntary evacuations were also encouraged in flood-prone areas in the coastal city of nearly 500,000 people.

The low-lying region is prone to flooding without much rain. Dorian is expected to bring heavy rains and 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1 meter) of storm surge Friday.

Schools and universities canceled Friday classes throughout much of the region. Buses, light rail and ferries will stop running.

Military bases will operate with only mission-essential personnel.

Dorian is currently moving up the East Coast as a Category 2 hurricane.

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3:35 p.m.

In Grand Bahama, crews were working to reopen the airport and used heavy equipment to pick up fallen branches and palm tree fronds after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas.

On Grand Bahama island Thursday, lines formed outside gas stations and grocery stores. At a nearby supermarket, 67-year-old wood carver Gordon Higgs said he would appreciate any help from the international community.

The hurricane has killed at least 20 people in the Bahamas.

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3 p.m.

A third death in Florida is being blamed on Hurricane Dorian .

Brevard County Medical Examiner's Office manager Craig Engleson says that on Sunday, a 68-year-old man fell to his death while putting up plywood hurricane shutters.

At least four storm-related deaths have been reported on the U.S. mainland, three in Florida and one in North Carolina. All have involved men who were trimming trees or otherwise getting ready for the storm.

Dorian is currently moving up the East Coast as a Category 2 hurricane. The storm devastated the Bahamas as it moved over the islands earlier this week, causing at least 20 deaths.

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2:25 p.m.

A North Carolina sheriff's office is reporting roofs blown off as Hurricane Dorian spins up tornadoes on its way up the coast of the Carolinas.

The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office posted photos of several houses with roofs torn off in a community known as The Farm, not far from the state line with South Carolina. Debris was also strewn through grassy areas.

Elsewhere, the sheriff's office showed images of winds that had overturned RVs and at least one boat parked on land.

The sheriff's office said there were no injuries reported.

Dorian is currently moving up the East Coast as a Category 2 hurricane. The storm devastated the Bahamas as it moved over the islands earlier this week, causing at least 20 deaths.

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2:25 p.m.

Officials in a coastal South Carolina county have suspended emergency services during high winds from Hurricane Dorian .

Georgetown County officials said in tweet Thursday afternoon that fire and EMS services had been called off "until wind speeds subside to a safe level."

Officials also noted that anyone who called 911 during the suspension would be put on a waiting list.

County officials also said Georgetown sheriff's deputies had been pulled back from areas south of Highway 521 due to the high winds.

Dorian is currently moving up the East Coast as a Category 2 hurricane. The storm devastated the Bahamas as it moved over the islands earlier this week, causing at least 20 deaths.

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2:25 p.m.

Hurricane Dorian's center is churning just offshore of South Carolina's Cape Romain as it pummels the Carolinas with high winds and rain.

The storm is centered Thursday afternoon about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Myrtle Beach and is moving north-northeast near 8 mph (13 kph).

Dorian's maximum sustained winds are near 110 mph (175 kph), making it a Category 2 hurricane. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Dorian is expected to slowly weaken over the next few days but will remain a powerful storm as its center moves near the coasts of North and South Carolina.