Florence could be costliest storm ever to hit the US

Pat Wise
September 15, 2018

The last Category 4 hurricane to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people and destroyed some 15,000 homes.

More than 1 million people have been issued evacuation orders along the coastal areas of Virginia, North Carolina and SC, as the storm is not expected to weaken until it makes landfall Thursday in the Carolinas.

Businesses and homes in the storm's path were boarded up and thousands of people had moved to emergency shelters, officials said, urging anyone who remained near the coast to flee. "It is an extremely, dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane", said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

The Category 4 storm's approach led to a series of schedule adjustments Tuesday for teams in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Five sites slated for closing that are closest to the coast have lower water levels and "can hold significant rainfall", Erin Culbert, a spokeswoman, said in an email.

"It's going to be inconvenient but we don't want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", said Gov. Henry McMaster.

Helene - 620 miles west of the Cape Verde islands off the African coast - had winds up to 110 miles per hour, and was expected to continue moving west-northwest for several more days, the NHC said. That would actually be Florence's storm surge, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. He also canceled campaign events Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for all of the N.C. coast and into SC.

For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl, it could bring torrential rains all the way into the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other unsafe conditions in places that have already experienced lots of rain recently.

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"Inland flooding will be a major threat and something people far from the landfall location should be concerned about", CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

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

"This storm will produce a tremendous amount of rainfall over a broad area", said Porter, warning some projections are up to 32 inches by the end of the weekend.

But while wind speed offers an easily quantifiable way to rate risky storms, forecasters are warning people not to fixate on wind speeds, saying that saltwater from the storm surge and freshwater from heavy rains pose a serious threat, no matter what the top winds are when the hurricane makes landfall.

Airlines, including American, Southwest, Delta and JetBlue, have begun letting affected passengers change travel plans without the usual fees.

- Hurricane conditions are expected late Thursday night into Saturday morning.

The storm is expected to stall over North Carolina, slowly making its way across the state and into southwestern Virginia. "We've never seen anything quite like this, on the East Coast at least", he said, according to Reuters. The Category 4 storm was moving west-northwest at 17 miles per hour.

"The key really is this thing is going to be a huge storm when it threatens the coast and this is just something that doesn't happen every day when you see things lining up as they are", he continued.

"This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks".

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