After triggering tornadoes in South Carolina, Hurricane Dorian was closing in for a possible direct hit Friday, Sept. 6, on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a string of low-lying islands, even as it weakened to a Category 1 storm.

Twisters spun off by Dorian peeled away roofs and flipped trailers in South Carolina, and more than 250,000 homes and businesses were left without power. Dorian’s winds weakened after sunset Thursday to 100 mph, before falling further early Friday to 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm.

In coastal Wilmington, North Carolina, heavy rain fell horizontally, trees bent in the wind, and traffic lights swayed as the hurricane drew near.

Overnight winds were expected to cause trees and branches to fall on power lines, and debris could block repair crews from accessing damaged lines, said Mike Burnette senior vice president of Electric Cooperatives, a utility provider in North Carolina. Customers should prepare for prolonged power outages, he said.

The National Hurricane Center forecast as much as 15 inches of rain for the coastal Carolinas, with flash-flooding likely.

On Thursday, Dorian swamped roads in historic downtown of Charleston, South Carolina, and knocked down some 150 trees and toppled power lines. Gusts had topped 80 mph in some areas. The port city of handsome antebellum homes sits on a peninsula that is prone to flooding even from ordinary storms.

The four deaths attributed to the storm took place in Florida and North Carolina. All of them involved men who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters, or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane.

As of early Friday, Dorian was centered about 40 miles east-northeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and had weakened to a Category 1 storm. With maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, Dorian was moving northeast at 15 mph.

Meanwhile, dozens of animals were evacuated from a South Carolina animal shelter that was in the path of Hurricane Dorian and sent to Chicago. A trailer full of cats and dogs arrived at the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society on Thursday.

Volunteers lined up to carry or walk them inside for medical check-ups. Lydia Krupinski with the Anti-Cruelty Society said the animals were brought to Chicago to free up shelter space in South Carolina for animals that become lost in the storm and are rescued. Many of the animals will live in foster homes until they can be adopted.

Includes reporting from The Associated Press

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