N.C. Governor Roy Cooper issued a mandatory state evacuation order for vulnerable coastal areas.
The evacuation order, effective at 8 am on Wednesday, applies to barrier islands along the entire coast, from the Virginia line to the South Carolina line.
"Please listen to and follow all evacuation orders," Gov. Cooper said. "We have seen the life and death effects of this storm in the Bahamas, and we urge everyone on the islands at the coast to leave."
The National Weather Service warned that Hurricane Dorian could bring possible life-threatening storm surge and wind when it makes its way to the North Carolina coast later this week.
Although Dorian was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, the NWS warned that it could still bring "strong winds, storm surge inundation, flash flooding, rip currents, and dangerous marine conditions" late Wednesday or early Thursday.
A hurricane watch and storm surge watch were both in effect as of Tuesday morning. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Dorian's maximum sustained winds decreased Tuesday morning to near 110 mph. But it's expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days. Late Tuesday morning, Dorian was centered about 45 miles north of Freeport in the Bahamas and was moving northwest near 2 mph.
Still, North Carolina officials say they expect far less rain or flooding from Hurricane Dorian than the state experienced during Florence last year.
State Emergency Management Meteorologist Katie Webster said Monday that Dorian is expected to pick up its speed as it churns north along the East Coast. Webster says Dorian could drop 5 to 10 inches of rain on North Carolina, with points along the coast getting a foot or more. That's about half the maximum rainfall totals during Florence last September.
Florence was blamed for 45 storm-related deaths in North Carolina and the National Hurricane Center lists it as causing $22 billion in damage.
Gov. Roy Cooper said he's activated 300 members of the National Guard to help with preparations and storm response.