Hurricane, storm surge watches in effect

Olive Hawkins
September 12, 2018

More than one million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. southeast coast as Hurricane Florence, the most powerful storm to threaten the Carolinas in almost three decades, barrelled closer.

More than a million people are expected to flee low-lying areas, as SC and Virginia ordered mandatory evacuations of coastal areas starting on Tuesday.

Florence is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 15 to 20 inches and possibly 30 inches in some spots along its track over portions of North Carolina, Virginia and northern SC through Saturday. Computer models predict more than 3 feet of rain in the eastern part of North Carolina, a fertile low-lying plain veined by brackish rivers with a propensity for escaping their banks.

Some residents have already left, but others have made a decision to stay and have been barricading their homes and stocking food supplies.

Rainfall totals from Hurricane Florence will top 20 inches in some areas, the National Weather Service says. Electricity supplies are also expected to be threatened by the wind.

Hurricanes that menace the Carolinas usually follow a similar pattern: first moving toward Caribbean islands and then heading north off the east coast of Florida and Georgia, often weakening as they pull in dry continental air.

A Category 4 hurricane has winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity.

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

A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland on Tuesday, and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone to flee.

Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Granted, the forward-looking study by Bhatia and his colleagues remains agnostic about precisely what is happening right now - a period in which we are already seeing very strong storms, such as Patricia.

Curtis Oil, a fuel distributor in Chesterfield, South Carolina, said it had been "overwhelmed with requests by state agencies and everybody else". Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.

Airlines are beginning to cancel flights ahead of the hurricane.

Charleston International Airport in SC tweeted that it expects runways to close by midnight Wednesday as it monitors Hurricane Florence. The airline didn't immediately comment.

The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet of water in spots, projections showed. "It is an extremely unsafe, life-threatening, historic hurricane", North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said. "That means the more trees that could fall, the more power outages", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

"Florence is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, and move through early Saturday", the NHC said on Wednesday.

"It's what you expect if you have a shift toward more intense storms, is that you'll start seeing intensities you haven't seen before", said Gabriel Vecchi, an atmospheric scientist at Princeton who was one of the study's authors.

The US Navy is sending 30 ships stationed in Virginia out to sea.

"Get to a safe place now or by Thursday morning", he said.

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