As Florence Surges Forward, Rethinking What Hurricane Preparation Looks Like

15 September, 2018, 17:56 | Author: Ann Santiago
  • Hurricane Florence evacuations

The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm but said life-threatening storm surges and catastrophic freshwater flooding were expected over portions of North and SC.

As of 8 p.m., the storm was centered 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16 mph (26 kph).

Hurricane conditions are likely to hit the area around North Carolina's southern coast on Thursday night and Friday, but tropical storm conditions will arrive on earlier Thursday, according to the hurricane center.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

Since Tuesday, forecasts have shifted the storm track towards the south and southwest after it reaches the coast, which could increase the storm's severity in coastal SC through Myrtle Beach and Charleston and even into parts of Georgia.

The storm's first casualties included a mother and her baby, who died when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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In contrast to the hurricane center's official projection, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line.

Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it is unclear how many did. Parts of North Carolina could get 40 inches (1 meter) of rain.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million more live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.

A crew of about 80 rescuers from Montgomery County is headed to SC to help deal with Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland have declared states of emergency.

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Florence is now heading for ocean water that has surface temperatures of about 85 degrees, meaning it will most likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.

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In Holden Beach, North Carolina, in the storm's path, longtime residents were busy securing their homes and possessions. Ralph Northam applies to about 245,000 people, including parts of the Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore.

By late afternoon, the centre of the storm was about 25 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

The storm surge, or wind-driven seawater, poses a huge danger, FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on ABC's "Good Morning America".

"The Charleston area now is expected to see at least 1-2 inches of rain over the next several days".

To back up that point, Graham cited a sobering statistic: "50 percent of the fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge - and that's not just along the coast".

U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter warned of the storm's dangers and praised his administration's handling of past hurricanes, rejecting criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria a year ago in Puerto Rico. With that much size and strength, even a glancing blow could be devastating - something forecasters stressed as they noted the shift in the predicted track.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the NHC said.

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