Hurricane Florence targets US East Coast

Gwen Vasquez
September 11, 2018

"On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday", NHC officials said Monday evening.

A slew of unsafe storms - hurricanes, tropical storms and a typhoon - are now traveling over both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Most forecast models point to Florence's eye hitting the southeast coast sometime on September 14, said Anthony Chipriano, a meteorologist at Radiant Solutions in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It will continue to strengthen and likely upgrade to a category 4 by Tuesday.

Cooper said 200 National Guard troops have already been activated. And Virginia's governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas. The state's emergency management agency said it is "preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster". "They're coming in and buying water and plates, and that's about all they're buying".

Hurricane Florence has strengthened into a Category 3 storm with 115 miles per hour (185 kph) maximum-sustained winds as it swirls toward the U.S. East Coast.

Florence is now forecast to approach the North Carolina or SC coast by Thursday, although tropical storm-force winds from the system could reach the coast as early as Wednesday.

The storm was moving west-northwest at around nine miles per hour, and was forecast to drench a large swath of the US East Coast running from northern Florida to New Jersey. Forecasters said it now has maximum sustained winds of about 130 miles per hour and even stronger gusts.

The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as unsafe rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway. Citizens should remember that flash floods could happen at any time and that flooding is the most deadly and damaging part of any hurricane.

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Florence is now one of three hurricanes spinning in the Atlantic Ocean, along with Helene and Isaac.

If Florence continues on its current forecast track, life-threatening conditions will be possible in North Carolina and SC at the end of next week with risky storm surge and strong winds possible, in addition to flooding that would impact the coasts and areas further inland.

North Carolina has only been hit by one Category 4 hurricane since reliable records have been kept more than 150 years ago. They warned that Florence could slow or stall after coming ashore, with some forecasting models showing it could unload a foot or two of rain in places, causing devastating inland flooding.

The state has only been hit by about a dozen Category 3 storms since 1850. SC has been hit by three Category 4 storms: Hazel; Gracie, in 1959; and Hugo, in 1989. "Some gradual weakening is possible on Tuesday", the advisory says, "but Olivia will likely remain a threat to the Hawaiian Islands next week". Some computer models show the storm making landfall near Wilmington, south of the Outer Banks.

The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons. The wind field is expected to keep growing, which will increase the storm surge and inland wind threats, the service said in a statement.

NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said historically, 90 percent of fatalities from hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions have been caused by water.

More than 3.9 million homes that would cost more than a $1 trillion to rebuild are at risk from hurricanes on the U.S. Atlantic coast from ME to Florida, according to CoreLogic, a property analytics firm in Irvine, California.

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