People living in Hurricane Florence's path write messages for the storm

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 5.4 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches on the US East Coast, according to the NWS, and another four million were under a tropical storm watch. "If the storm turns North towards D.C., more airlines will be impacted, but the disruption will be similar in scale to an afternoon or two of thunderstorms", the FlightAware spokesperson said.

"Unlike Puerto Rico they have very strong power companies", he said of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Although the potential track of the hurricane continued to shift to the north, large swaths of SC were still expected to be affected by rain, winds and flooding. "It's going to destroy homes", said Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats.

Vehicles travel westbound on Interstate 26 ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence near Orangeburg, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018.

"I'm scared we'll get 30 inches or more of rain", said Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired real estate agent who has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane. While it may or may not officially become a Category 5 storm, it will still be a major Hurricane at landfall.

Florence interrupted her stay on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

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By the time it reaches the USA mainland, the NHC says Florence will strengthen into "an extremely unsafe major hurricane". Hurricane Isaac - which late Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season - is heading west towards the Caribbean.

"This is not a storm that people need to ride out", Cooper told reporters. The storm, as of Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. EDT, has sustained maximum winds of 130 miles per hour, keeping it as a Category 4, and is still expected to be a major hurricane when it hits land.

Both of the Carolinas and Virginia ordered mandatory evacuations for some of their residents starting at noon Tuesday and over a million people are expected to flee. As the storm encounters the highlands of North Carolina and Virginia, it will likely increase its rate of precipitation.

"This storm is unlike any of the others we faced while there".

For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl, it could bring torrential rains into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods and mudslides across a region getting lots of rain recently.

Half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and numerous hog farms are on the storm's path. The watch "means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours", the Hurricane Center said.

At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, but neither packs the deadly punch of Florence.

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