Coastal Carolina dealers close as Hurricane Dorian churns in Atlantic

Hurricane Dorian continued to churn off the coast of the Southeast U.S. at midday Thursday as a Category 2 hurricane, with its latest projected path threatening landfall in the Carolinas later in the day and into Friday.

Auto retailers from Florida to North Carolina closed stores in anticipation of the storm, which at one point had been a Category 5 hurricane that caused widespread devastation in the Bahamas. Florida had braced for the storm, but Dorian has so far steered north of the state and slowly moved along the Atlantic coast.

The National Hurricane Center on Thursday warned of tornadoes, storm surge, winds and heavy rainfall in portions of the Carolinas. Wind gusts of 78 mph were reported in Charleston, S.C., as of noon. At that time, Dorian was 45 miles east-southeast of the city, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation Monday for several coastal counties, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for several coastal areas.

CarMax reopened all of its stores in central Florida on Thursday, but five locations in Georgia and the Carolinas remained closed. A company spokeswoman said the retailer has committed $ 800,000 to disaster relief, partnering with the American Red Cross, Good360 and the Emergency Assistance Foundation. It’s also matching $ 2 for every dollar its associates donate to these organizations.

Hendrick Automotive Group closed its stores in Charleston on Monday evening and shuttered its locations in Jacksonville, N.C., and Wilmington, N.C., on Wednesday afternoon.

Personnel at dealerships throughout the Carolinas’ coastal region have been moving inventory to less-vulnerable locations and generally securing their stores. It is a familiar practice in the Carolinas, about a year after the area dealt with Hurricane Florence.

Robert Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, said the state is dealing with Hurricane Dorian’s glancing path. “Wind is where dealers pick up a lot of damage,” he said. The association sent storm preparedness tips to dealers in the state.

Messages seeking comment were left with the automobile dealers associations in Georgia and South Carolina.

Jackie Charniga contributed to this report.

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