Hurricane Florence downgraded to Category 1; still a unsafe storm

Gwen Vasquez
September 17, 2018

Tiffany Norton, a spokeswoman for Dorchester County, South Carolina, said emergency personnel are removed from road travel when winds reach tropical storm force.

Hurricane-force winds began whipping North Carolina as federal emergency management officials warned that the hurricane remained a "very risky storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the coast. "We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees", said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later canceled.

It has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, but forecasters say Hurricane Florence is still capable of delivering a lethal punch. We know it has forced the cancellation of almost 1,800 flights, with more to come, and that it has already caused serious flooding in coastal areas.

Despite its unpredictable path, it was forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at midday on Friday. "There's nothing like being in the street knowing that nobody is coming", she said, rocking her eight-month-old baby in her arms.

Florence has been bearing down on the Carolinas for days, and it has expanded in size, with tropical-storm-force winds extending almost 200 miles from the storm's eye.

North Alabama stays on the "dry" side of the storm for the duration; however, the wind will pick up from Friday through the weekend (north at 10-20 miles per hour on average), and some showers are possible by Sunday and Monday as the western edge of Florence's "influence" spreads clouds and some rain this direction.

"The idea of having to leave with my two cats and go somewhere for a week or more. once you leave, you don't know how many days it will be before you can return", a Wilmington resident named Kate tells VOA.

With no steering currents in the atmosphere to keep the storm moving, Florence will slow down as it approaches land.

At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters with more facilities being opened.

General O'Shaughnessy said there were about 7,000 U.S. military personnel now in place and ready to respond to the storm, along with ships, helicopters, high-wheeled vehicles and other equipment. O'Shaughnessy, head of US Northern Command, said search and rescue would be a top priority, but weather may prevent rescuers from getting in during the hours immediately after the storm hits.

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About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been put under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders to avoid what emergency officials called a "once in a lifetime" storm.

"On a scale of one to 10, I'm probably a seven in terms of worry, she said. Today the threat becomes a reality", according to The Associated Press.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre said the storm would weaken after making landfall but also linger, dumping heavy rains for days.

Overcrowded animal shelters in some North Carolina districts were facing a more grim prospect: euthanizing animals that can't be shipped to safety.

Since issuing a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday, nearly all of the more than 2500 residents left the island.

"We still have a lot of people who are not taking this seriously".

In New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, the storm surge overwhelmed the town of 30,000. The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the area starting Saturday at 8 am through Tuesday.

Duke Energy said it would close a pair of nuclear power reactors at its Brunswick plant on the Cape Fear River, about four miles from Southport, N.C. The company said its procedures required closing the plants when facing sustained 75 mph winds, even though the plants were created to withstand winds of more than 200 mph and a storm surge of 22 feet. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.

Some evacuees who've been displaced since Tuesday were increasingly growing impatient and anxious as reports about where the storm would hit, and how hard, have changed. "If I can't get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place".

"I'm not leaving my child", Foster said.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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