Evacuees clogging highways ahead of Florence

14 September, 2018, 14:07 | Author: Rosalie Gross
  • Hurricane Florence

Packing winds of up to 220 km/h (140 mph) late Monday, Florence was expected to further strengthen and become "an extremely risky major hurricane" by the time in makes landfall in the Carolinas on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a 21:00 UTC update.

In North Carolina, coastal evacuations were also underway late Monday - with more scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as risky rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway. An estimated 250,000 more people from the northern Outer Banks were due to be sent to higher ground starting Tuesday at midday.

For many, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky weather across a wide area.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham also warned that Florence is expected to linger once onshore, downing trees, knocking out electricity and causing widespread flooding. People living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards, he warned.

"We've basically got everything we need. and we're just going to wait it out for a few days", he said. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center".

Florence is expected to remain a Category 4 storm when it makes landfall.

"There is an increasing risk of coastal storm surge flooding and freshwater flooding from heavy prolonged rain when the hurricane approaches the USA", said a NOAA tweet. Maximum sustained winds are near 75 miles per hour.

A storm surge warning has been issued from South Santee River, SC, to Duck, NC, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. The coastal areas of Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are now under evacuation orders and are also the states in which airports will be most impacted by the storm.

Once the storm makes landfall, it will "sit over the Carolinas for some time", according to WSOC meteorologist John Ahrens.

"The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely risky hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity", the hurricane center said.

As of 12:00 p.m. on Monday, Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour (195 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb making the powerful storm a Category 4. It says total rainfall could reach 30 inches in some places, prompting life-threatening flash flooding from SC to Northern Virginia.

That's a reference to the infamous storm that came ashore just north of Charleston, S.C.in late September 1989 as a category three system - killing almost three dozen SC residents and doing an estimated $10 billion worth of damage.

All eyes are on Hurricane Florence and its path toward the Carolinas, but other hurricanes and tropical storms are brewing as well.

Duke Energy on Monday issued the following statement: "The company expects widespread damage and power outages as Hurricane Florence is forecasted to be a large and extremely risky storm system, packing fierce winds and torrential rainfall". He said USA 278 and US 21 would be "ready for reversal" at noon Tuesday, but a final decision on whether to reverse flow on the two highways would come later from local authorities.

"I've been doing this since 1983", Roberts said as he completed an order for another 18-wheeler full of supplies.

Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation order for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties Tuesday morning.

The US military said it was sending an advanced team to Raleigh, North Carolina, to coordinate with federal and state partners and that about 750 military personnel will be set aside to provide support.

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