‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Florence is now packing winds of 220 km/h

Olive Hawkins
September 12, 2018

Winds and massive waves will pound coastal North and SC when Florence makes landfall on Friday, and its rains will take a heavy toll for miles inland, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned. Many parts of the Appalachians have been saturated with rain over recent weeks, adding to concerns for flash flooding and mudslides inland.

And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

At 2 a.m., the storm was centered 625 miles (1,005 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 17 mph (28 kph).

"It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we're forecasting is unprecedented".

"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion", the agency says. To assist the South Carolina Highway patrol with a smooth transition and movement, Guardsmen were positioned on the roads at traffic control points, assisting local law enforcement with evacuation routes and lane reversals.

Kathleen O'Neal, a resident of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina's Barrier Islands, said she, her husband and son would ride out the storm. She said her house, built in 2009 in Buxton, North Carolina, is on a ridge and built to withstand a hurricane.

Florence could hit the Carolinas harder than any hurricane since Hazel packed 130 miles per hour (209 kph) winds in 1954.

Significantly, hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles (110 kilometres) from the eye, and tropical-storm-force winds reached 175 miles (280 kilometres) outward, making outdoor preparations hard or unsafe as early as Thursday.

Hurricane watch: Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina and North of Duck, North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border.

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By way of comparison, the maximum intensity of Hurricane Maria, the storm system which path of destruction left nearly 3,000 people dead in Puerto Rico, was 277.8 km/h, (150 knots), the NHC said. While it may or may not officially become a Category 5 storm, it will still be a major Hurricane at landfall.

Utility companies deployed crews and gear in advance, according to trade group, the Edison Electric Institute.

Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm. A Category 5 designation means winds of 253 kilometres per hour or higher. A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places.

Trump has declared states of emergency for North and SC ahead of the Category 4 hurricane, which frees up help from federal agencies.

"We have to be careful we're not asking them to come back to Beaufort County through a storm", he said. He said the government is prepared for the storm. Florence is being speculated to be the most intense hurricane to hit the area in close to 30 years, since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

It may be a sunny, blue-sky day, with a hurricane still tracking days away, but in the lead-up to the storm, rip currents can still strengthen and pull people out to sea.

Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.

Boeing Co suspended work on Tuesday at the SC plant where it assembles 787 widebody jetliners, and a Volvo automobile plant in South Carolina's evacuation zone was also closed, company officials said.

The center of the massive storm is then forecast to meander Thursday, Friday and Saturday over a stretch of coastline saturated by rising seas, inundating several states and triggering life-threatening floods. Some gasoline stations also ran low on fuel. "You're going to be displaced from your home in coastal areas. There's no canned goods", Kristin Harrington said as she shopped at a Walmart in Wilmington.

That water doesn't just leave.

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