The deadly Hurricane Florence’s rage begins today as the Carolina coasts can expect winds topping 80 mph late Thursday afternoon. And that’s just the prelude to untold days of misery.
Though its wind speeds have dropped to make it a Category 2 storm, forecasters warned that the hurricane retained its potential to deliver catastrophic, life-threatening damage, including drenching some areas with up to 40 inches of rain.
“Don’t be fooled by the fact that Florence has weakened slightly to a Category 2 hurricane; categories only denote the speed of sustained winds. What makes this hurricane extremely dangerous are the deadly storm surges, mammoth coastal flooding and historic rainfall expected far inland.” write CNN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018
By the time it leaves, it’s expected to have unloaded 10 trillion gallons of rainfall in North Carolina, weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue said. That’s enough to fill more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
• Storm has weakened: Florence is now a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.
• Where is Florence? The storm was about 235 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and was moving at about 17 mph on Thursday morning.
• The path of the storm: Florence’s center will approach the North and South Carolina coast late Thursday and Friday, but it’s unclear where and precisely when it will make landfall. As the storm moves inland, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland will also be in peril.
• Storm surge still a big threat: Strong winds will send rising water inland from the coastline of the Carolinas. The National Hurricane Center says the storm surge could rise up to 13 feet — that’s water inundating homes up to the first floor ceiling.
• Flight cancellations: At least 800 flights along the US East Coast have been canceled Thursday through Saturday ahead of the storm.
Millions flee or prep for chaos
Officials in the potential path of Florence urged people to evacuate their coastal homes and directed drivers away from the coast.
“You put your life at risk by staying,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. “Don’t plan to leave once the winds and rains start.”
Cooper and his South Carolina counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been directed to leave that if they don’t do so, they are on their own.
About 300,000 people have been evacuated from South Carolina, McMaster said. The governor added that a million or more people could be evacuated before the storm makes landfall.
“Even the rescuers cannot stay there,” he said.
In Carolina Beach, authorities have stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland. They also instituted a 24-hour curfew. The town is less than 5 feet above sea level and officials worry that as many as 1,000 of the town’s 6,300 residents are planning to stay.
Mayor Joe Benson said the storm will batter the oceanside town through two high tide periods. Storm surge of 13 feet on top of a high tide at 7 feet could overwhelm Carolina Beach.