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The Associated Press—A weakened Hurricane Dorian flooded homes on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday with a fury that took even storm-hardened residents by surprise, forcing people to retreat to their attics. Hundreds were feared trapped by high water, and neighbors used boats to rescue one another.
Its winds down to 90 mph, Dorian howled over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the brute that wreaked havoc on the Bahamas at the start of the week. Just when it looked as if its run up the Southeast coast was coming to a relatively quiet end, the Category 1 hurricane lashed communities with rain and surging seas, sending water coursing onto the main floors of elevated homes.
Over and over, longtime residents said that they had never seen flooding so bad, or that things that had never flooded before were inundated.
“The wall of water just came rushing through the island from the sound side. And it just started looking like a bathtub, very quickly,” said Steve Harris, who has lived on Ocracoke Island for most of the last 19 years. “We went from almost no water to 4 to 6 feet in a matter of minutes.”
Meanwhile, the death toll in the Bahamas, where the hurricane hit with Category 5 winds, rose to 30. Some survivors whose homes were smashed by the storm waited for a flight out of the disaster zone.
A few hundred people gathered at the partly flooded Leonard M. Thompson airport on Abaco island in hopes of getting a seat on one of the small planes picking up the most vulnerable survivors, including the sick and the elderly. However, the evacuation was slow and there was frustration for some who said they had nowhere to go after the hurricane tore through the area, shattering whole neighborhoods.
“They told us that the babies, the pregnant people and the elderly people were supposed to be first preference,” said Lukya Thompson, a 23-year-old bartender. But many were still waiting, she said.
Despite hardship and uncertainty, those at the airport were mostly calm. The Bahamian health ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way to help people in affected areas, though warned of delays because of severe flooding and limited access.
At least 30 people died in the hurricane and the number could be “significantly higher,” Bahamian health minister Duane Sands told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday night. The victims are from Abaco and Grand Bahama islands and include some who had been injured and flown to New Providence island, he said.
The hurricane hit Abaco on Sunday and then hovered over Grand Bahama for a day and a half.
Some dazed survivors made their way back to a shantytown where they used to live, hoping to gather up some of their soggy belongings.
The community was known as The Mudd—or “Da Mudd,” as it is often pronounced—and it was built by thousands of Haitian migrants over decades. It was razed in a matter of hours by Dorian, which reduced it to piles of splintered plywood and two-by-fours 4 and 5 feet deep, spread over an area equal to several football fields.
A helicopter buzzed overhead as people picked through the debris, avoiding a body that lay tangled underneath a tree branch next to twisted sheets of corrugated metal, its hands stretched toward the sky. It was one of at least nine bodies that people said they had seen in the area.
“Ain’t nobody come to get them,” said Cardot Ked, a 43-year-old carpenter from Haiti who has lived 25 years in Abaco. “If we could get to the next island, that’s the best thing we can do.”
Mr. Ked was one of thousands of desperate people seeking help in Dorian’s aftermath. With winds of 185 mph, the hurricane obliterated houses on the Bahamas’ Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
“People will be out of jobs for months,” 67-year-old wood carver Gordon Higgs lamented. “They’ll be homeless, no food. Nothing.”
Total property losses, not including infrastructure and autos, could reach $7 billion, the firm Karen Clark & Co. estimated.