Hurricane Florence threatens millions on US East Coast

Thursday, 13 Sep, 2018

The National Weather Service said 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches.

If Hurricane Florence's predicted track holds, it will be the first Category 4 storm to make landfall directly on the North Carolina coast.

With less than 48 hours before being expected to make landfall, Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 3 storm Wednesday afternoon.

But despite the potentially devastating hurricane, forecast to make landfall on Friday with 130mph winds, people tried to offer some "relief" in the silence before the storm.

Hurricane Florence's projected track shifted somewhat south and west on Wednesday, with National Hurricane Center forecasters predicting that it could throw Georgia into peril as the storm moves inland.

The earliest reasonable time that tropical storm force winds could arrive on the East Coast is Thursday morning, and the most likely time is Thursday mid- to late-day.

All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

"We will experience power outages, we will have infrastructure damaged, there will be homes damaged, and there will be debris on the roads", said Jeff Byard, an official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "You can replace your property, but you cannot replace you". Even from a distance, Florence is expected to bring more sustained easterly winds to the region.

Hurricane warnings have been issued by the U.S. National Hurricane Center for portions of SC and North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, according to the agency's 5 p.m. update on September 11, 2018.

Executives in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia declared emergencies earlier in the week. The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state's response operations. Hugo's storm surge peaked at around 20 feet near Moores Landing, South Carolina.

The storm is expected to hit the Carolinas hard later this week.

As of 2 p.m., the storm was centred 435 miles (700 kilometres) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 16 mph (26 kph). Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different. "There will be flooding in inland areas as well".

"All interests from SC into the Mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials", the Hurricane Center said.

Seven-day rainfall totals are forecast to reach 10 to 20 inches over much of North Carolina and parts of SC, with as much as 30 inches in some places.

While some of the computer forecasting models conflicted, the latest projections more or less showed the storm shifting southward and westward in a way that suddenly put more of SC in danger and imperilled Georgia, too. Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in SC.

The storm will slow down because of pushback from a trough - an extended area of low atmospheric pressure - now over Texas, Stacy Stewart, an NHC senior hurricane specialist, said in the update.