Hurricane Florence strengthens and barrels towards the east coast

Intensifying Hurricane Florence could strike US Southeast

‘Prepare for the worst’: Three states declare state of emergency as Hurricane Florence strengthens to a category 4 and barrels towards the east coast – as mandatory evacuations get underway

  • Florence rapidly intensified into a fearsome category 4 hurricane early Monday
  • Forecasts warn Hurricane Florence could strike a direct and dangerous blow anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic region later this week
  • By 11am on Monday, Florence was centered about 1,240 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina 
  • It is predicted to approach the coast of South or North Carolina on Thursday
  • Governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency ahead of the storm
  • North Carolina officials on Monday ordered mandatory evacuations for the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands
  • South Carolina ordered the state’s entire coastline, which includes an estimated one million residents, to be evacuated starting at noon on Tuesday 
  • One person drowned on Sunday and two others were injured in dangerous surf conditions off Daytona Beach in Florida churned by Hurricane Florence 

Florence rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. 

South Carolina ordered the state’s entire coastline, which includes an estimated one million residents, to be evacuated starting at noon on Tuesday. In North Carolina, officials had already ordered some 250,000 residents and visitors to begin evacuating the Outer Banks barrier islands.

Florence has winds of 130 miles per hour and is due to gain strength before making landfall early Thursday, bringing heavy rain that could cause severe flooding through the region.

‘Further strengthening is anticipated, and Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday,’ the National Hurricane Center said. 

South Carolina’s emergency management agency said it was already ‘preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster’.

Rapidly intensifying Hurricane Florence (bottom right) could strike a direct and dangerous blow anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic region later this week

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued the evacuation order on Monday for all eight counties along the coast, including: Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, and Berkeley.

“We do not want to risk one South Carolina life in this hurricane,” McMaster said.

He said storm surge could reach as high as 10 feet and estimated that one million residents would be leaving the coast. Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and U.S. 501 heading into Myrtle Beach will be reversed when the order takes effect.

McMaster, as well as the governors of North Carolina and Virginia. had already declared states of emergency.

‘Now is the time for your family also to prepare and stay tuned for more updates,’ McMaster said earlier. ‘Plan for the worst, pray for the best.’ 

Forecasters say the hurricane’s strength is expected to fluctuate but it still will be a dangerous storm by the time it reaches the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday. 

For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions. 

The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous eastern hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons. 

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore. He said people living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards.  

It’s too early to know the exact path, but forecasters said Florence could blow ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday

Jim Craig, David Burke and Chris Rayner load generators as people stocked up on supplies in Wilmington, North Carolina on Monday

Chris Rayner helps customers load their cars as they bought supplies at a Home Depot in Wilmington, North Carolina in preparation for Hurricane Florence

People shop at the Harris Teeter, filling up on water and supplies, in Charleston, South Carolina as Hurricane Florence becomes a threat

Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This photo provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Monday as it strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane

Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend had already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River. 

North Carolina officials on Monday ordered mandatory evacuations for the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands

One person drowned on Sunday and two others were injured in dangerous surf conditions off Daytona Beach in Florida churned by Hurricane Florence. 

Up and down the densely populated coast, residents have been told to prepare, and not just for a possible direct blow. Florence could slow or stall on or near shore, scooping up massive amounts of seawater. 

Some forecasting models show it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding. Forecasters also warned of a rising threat of life-threatening storm surge, along with the damaging winds.  

Navy ships off Virginia’s coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already canceled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

Red flags have already been flying on beaches, warning swimmers to stay out of the water as seas began kicking up. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes, fill sandbags and secure their homes.

In coastal Charleston, South Carolina, city officials offered sandbags to residents. Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged people to secure their homes but said it was too early to know if evacuations will be ordered.

Myrtle Beach hardware stores and supermarkets were busy ringing up sales of bottled water, plywood and generators.

‘Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water,’ Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at a Walmart, told The Sun News. ‘They’re coming in and buying water and plates, and that’s about all they’re buying.’

North Carolina crews were getting bulldozers and chain saws ready.

As of 5am Monday, Florence was centered about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 9mph. Its maximum sustained winds are at 105mph

One person drowned on Sunday and two others were injured in dangerous surf conditions off Daytona Beach in Florida churned by Hurricane Florence

The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm

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    In Jacksonville, North Carolina, about 20 miles inland, some residents picked up hurricane supplies during their normal weekend shopping, The Daily News reported. Ilija Cesal told the newspaper he wouldn’t worry about buying extra water or other supplies for a few more days.

    ‘I’ll see by Wednesday how that goes – we got over 48 hours before that happens,’ Cesal said.

    The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, near the shore, canceled its upcoming alumni weekend and all classes starting at noon Monday, encouraging its students to leave campus for a safer location.

    In southeast Virginia, Naval Station Norfolk told not to leave their vehicles at the sprawling base later this week because of the flood threat. The Navy planned to send ships from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia out to sea.

    Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend had already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia

    Many parts of the Washington, D.C area received up to three inches of rain prior to the arrival of Hurricane Florence

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      Florida-based Carnival Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.

      As of 5am Monday, Florence was centered about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving west at 9mph. Its maximum sustained winds are at 105mph. Drawing energy from the warm water, it could have top sustained winds of 130 mph or more by Tuesday. 

      The center also said that Hurricane Isaac, much farther out to sea, has become the 5th named hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season.

      Lining up behind Florence, Isaac was about 1,230 miles east of the Windward Islands with top winds of 75 mph early Monday, moving west at 13 mph. It should accelerate over the next 36 hours, but poses no threat to land at this time. 

       

       

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