Weaker Hurricane Florence still extremely risky for Southeastern coast

Katie Ramirez
September 13, 2018

"It's a big one". "So to kill the boredom, we can end up on the rooftop "playing reporters" battling elements with fake microphones", she said.

Hurricane Florence weakened late Wednesday night to a Category 2 storm.

The storm has pretty much followed the forecast track through now, but the issue will be Thursday or Friday as it nears the coast and the steering currents collapse.

The result could be what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago: catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farms and industrial sites.

Hurricane Florence is being seen as a monster of a storm zeroing in on the Southeastern coast with more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights.

Where exactly the zone of heaviest rain sets up as the storm meanders inland is more uncertain, but models suggest that it may concentrate in southern North Carolina and northern SC through the weekend.

For many of those under evacuation orders, getting out of harm's way has proved difficult, as airlines canceled flights and motorists had a hard time finding gas. Hurricane Florence deserves all the names it's being called as it threatens to cause historic flooding, blow catastrophic winds and idle for days over the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic. As of now, Florence is due to make landfall very early Friday morning, somewhere in the Carolinas.

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

Duke Energy said Florence, a Category 2 storm, could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.

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The hurricane center, in its 2 a.m. Thursday update, said Florence was 235 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 17 mph. The shopping list for people who have chose to ride out the storm at home: plywood to board up their windows, sandbags, bilge pumps, generators, trash bags, potato chips, bottled water and wine. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

The storm's center was about 135 miles (216 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at noon EDT (1600 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands.

For anyone needing a place to stay to escape the hurricane, both North Carolina and SC are updating their lists of emergency shelters.

Florence's weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who anxious that the storm could still be deadly.

Maryland is not predicted to receive the brunt of the storm.

If the European model is true or the overall trend persists, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said it "is exceptionally bad news, as it smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". Evacuees also loaded up their vehicles with extra gas cans, their pets - mostly dogs, and one cockatoo - coolers filled with sandwich meat, family photographs and blankets. Roy Cooper urged residents in evacuation areas of his state to get out while they still can. In South Carolina, Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley told residents they need to prepare again for the worst just in case.

Some Florence evacuees are steering toward Bristol Motor Speedway near the Tennessee-Virginia border and Atlanta Motor Speedway, where campgrounds have been opened for people fleeing the storm.

At Nags Head on North Carolina's Hatteras Island, only a few people remained to take photos of angry waves topped with white froth. Most other beachgoers were long gone. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said. "Also, a little creepy".

"Once you leave, hard to get back in to check on damage", he said.

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