Time almost up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at Southeast - Story | WFLD

Pat Wise
September 14, 2018

The outer bands of wind and rain caused by the storm were already lashing North Carolina on Thursday morning.

In South Carolina, traffic along parts of Interstate 26 and United States 501 has been directed away from the coast.

NOAA is urging people not to mistake the downgrade for a lessened threat, with flight director Jack Parrish warning residents to be as safe as they can. The forecast calls for as much as 40 inches of rain over seven days along the coast, with the deluge continuing even as the center of the storm eventually makes its way over the Appalachian Mountains.

Coastal North Carolina felt the first bite of Hurricane Florence on Thursday as winds began to rise, a prelude to the slow-moving tempest that forecasters warned would cause catastrophic flooding across a wide swath of the US southeast. "It's a big one", he said at the White House.

"I don't care if this goes down to a Category 1", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

Even with some weakening that is predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said.

It's unclear exactly how many people evacuated, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

Instead of pushing directly towards states like West Virgina, Kentucky, or IN (following a generally northwest track from its initial landfall), Florence may now stall out on top of SC before moving west or southwest towards Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

The hurricane centre is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast Saturday with winds of around 80 miles per hour (130 kph) before landfall, but with rainfall in the 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimetre) range and up to 13 feet (nearly 4 metres) of storm surge. Leave now. You put your life at risk by staying. As the storm moves inland, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland will also be in peril.

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"It certainly is a challenge forecasting precise impacts when its exact track won't be known until a day in advance", Landsea said: There's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles (80 kilometres) off shore versus heading inland immediately.

"I mean this takes a long time to move through the Carolinas".

In Carolina Beach, authorities have stopped allowing traffic to the island via the only bridge between the island and the mainland. Storm surge of 13 feet on top of a high tide at 7 feet could overwhelm Carolina Beach. Florence has weakened a bit over 24 hours, but it's also grown even larger - and it will likely dump torrential rain over North and SC through Monday. "Flooding is nearly guaranteed".

"When that last ferry pulls out.it's unnerving to see it pull away and know, 'That's the last chance I have of getting off this island, '" she said Wednesday.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, concerned the storm would bring its devastation south, issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in his state.

This image of Hurricane Florence was captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, now living and working onboard the International Space Station.

"Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye", German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted. "If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely".

With 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.

The Weather Channel reported at 10:30 a.m. Thursday that the ocean had risen 1.1 feet at Hatteras Island since the storm's arrival just before dawn. Hurricane Helene and Subtropical Storm Joyce were off in the Atlantic, posing no threat. Those four storms are brewing at the same time Hurricane Olivia is pounding Hawaii.

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