Hurricane Dorian is closing in for a possible direct hit on North Carolina’s low-lying Outer Banks islands.
On Ocracoke Island, near the southern end of the 200-mile string of barrier islands and spits, about 500 of the 1,000 residents have decided to stay in their homes to face the storm, which has weakened to a category 1 hurricane.
Ann Warner, the owner of Howard’s Pub on the island, said: “The boats are tied down. Yards are cleaned up. Businesses are closed. People are hunkered down.
Ferry services were halted on Wednesday, and Ms Warner added: “It’s too late to leave. If you want to change your mind, it’s too late. We’re on our own.”
Further north, Virginia is also in harm’s way and a round of evacuations have been ordered.
The hurricane hammered the Bahamas with 185mph winds, killing at least 30 people and probably dozens more.
But it then swept past Florida at a relatively safe distance, grazed Georgia, and then hugged the South Carolina-North Carolina coastline.
At least four deaths in the US south-east have been blamed on the storm.
Tornadoes spun off by Dorian tore off roofs and flipped over trailers in South Carolina, and more than 250,000 homes and businesses were left without power.
Dorian’s winds had weakened after sunset on Thursday to 100mph, before falling further early on Friday to 90mph.
In coastal Wilmington, North Carolina, heavy rain fell horizontally, trees bent in the wind and traffic lights swayed as the hurricane drew near.
Residents were advised to prepare for prolonged power outages as debris is likely to delay work to restore them.
The National Hurricane Centre forecast as much as 15in of rain for the coastal Carolinas, with flash-flooding likely.
On Thursday, Dorian swamped roads in historic Charleston, South Carolina, and knocked down some 150 trees and toppled power lines.
The four deaths attributed to the storm in the mainland US 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 centred around 55 miles east of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 30 miles south-southwest of Cape Lookout, North Carolina, moving north-east at 15mph.
The storm is expected to weaken slowly over the next few days, but will likely remain a hurricane as it moves along the coast of North Carolina.