Hurricane Dorian sideswiped the Carolinas with shrieking winds, tornadoes and sideways rain Thursday as it closed in for a possible direct hit on the dangerously exposed Outer Banks. At least four deaths in the Southeast were blamed on the storm.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Hurricane Dorian sideswiped the Carolinas with shrieking winds, tornadoes and sideways rain Thursday as it closed in for a possible direct hit on the dangerously exposed Outer Banks. At least four deaths in the Southeast were blamed on the storm.

Twisters spun off by Dorian peeled away roofs and flipped trailers, and more than 250,000 homes and businesses were left without power as the hurricane pushed north along the coastline, its winds weakening after sunset to 100 mph. Trees and power lines littered flooded streets in Charleston's historic downtown. Gusts had topped 80 mph in some areas.

North Carolina's Outer Banks, a thin line of islands that stick out from the U.S. coast like a boxer's chin, braced for a hit early Friday. To the north, Virginia was also in harm's way, and a round of evacuations was ordered there.

The damage from the same storm that mauled the Bahamas was mercifully light in many parts of South Carolina and Georgia as well, and by midafternoon many of the 1.5 million people who had been told to evacuate in three states were allowed to return.

But overnight winds will 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 North Carolina utility provider. Customers should prepare for prolonged power outages, he said.

"We have a long night ahead of us. Everyone needs to stay in a safe place and off the roads until the storm passes," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

About 150 evacuees were camped out at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, speedway spokesman Scott Cooper said.

After leaving at least 30 people dead when it slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph winds, Dorian swept past Florida at a relatively safe distance, grazed Georgia, and then hugged the South Carolina-North Carolina coastline.

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.

Thursday's tracking updates:

8 p.m. Dorian was centered about 30 miles south of Cape Fear, North Carolina, near the state's border with South Carolina. The Category 2 storm had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (161 kph) and was moving northeast at 10 mph (16 kph).

As it closed in on the Eastern Seaboard, Navy ships were ordered to ride out the storm at sea, and military aircraft were moved inland. More than 700 airline flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday were canceled. And hundreds of shelter animals were airlifted from coastal South Carolina to Delaware.

Tybee Island, Georgia, population 3,000, came through the storm without flooding. "If the worst that comes out of this is people blame others for calling evacuations, then that's wonderful," Mayor Jason Buelterman said.

10 a.m.: Multiple confirmed and possible tornadoes have been reported Thursday morning in southeastern North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

One swept through a neighborhood in the Carolina Shores area of Brunswick County. Numerous homes suffered major damage. The other touched down near the Pender-New Hanover County line.

Two tornadoes have been confirmed; at least four more are suspected.

As the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian lash the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center is saying residents will be feeling the effects through Friday afternoon.

Isolated tornadoes are possible, and some have already been confirmed in southeastern North Carolina.

With 4 to 8 inches of rainfall predicated, the local National Weather Service Stations are predicting flash flooding, particularly in low-lying and poor drainage areas, and subsequent river flooding.

Impacts from the storm are expected to decrease markedly to the west of U.S. 1. 

8:30 a.m.: Tornadoes have been confirmed Thursday morning in Southeastern North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

One swept through a neighborhood in the Carolina Shores area of Brunswick County. Numerous homes suffered major damage. The other touched down near the Pender / New Hanover County line.

A tornado watch remains in effect for the entire region and residents are urged to heed all warnings.

8 a.m.: Hurricane Dorian is finally making the northeast turn so many forecasts expected Thursday morning.

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Dorian remains a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. The storm reached major hurricane status again Wednesday night after weakening to a Category 2 throughout the day. It is currently traveling north-northeast at a speed of eight mph.

The hurricane now sits about 170 miles south-southwest of Wilmington. A sharper turn toward the northeast is expected Thursday night.

The ill-effects of Hurricane Dorian are already being felt across Southeast North Carolina Thursday morning.

Heavy rainfall from Hurricane Dorian bands are sweeping across the area, causing multiple tornado warnings. The region is also under a tornado watch until 4 p.m. Thursday.

Residents are advised to take cover and not wait to see or hear the tornado. Torrential rainfall is occurring with this storm, and may lead to flash flooding. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways.After slowing down late Wednesday night, Hurricane Dorian sped back up to eight mph overnight as it continues to impact South Carolina and move north up the coast.

With the approach imminent, the entire North Carolina coast remains under hurricane and storm surge warnings until further notice.

Evacuations at area beach towns wrapped up late Wednesday as officials urge residents still in the region to stay where they are for the duration of the storm.