The Buzz | Tropical bands from Florence begin lashing Carolinas

Katie Ramirez
September 17, 2018

"We're on the wrong side of this storm".

The National Weather Service said 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.

Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 225kmh to 175kmh as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early on Thursday.

"The forecast shows a storm surge higher than many homes", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

As of 8 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said Florence was centered about 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 220 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The hurricane, which has been downgraded from a category four storm to a category two, is not expected to weaken any further before it hits the coast. Its surge of ocean water could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 13 feet, and days of downpours could dump more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

The result could be catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, fields and industrial sites.

A buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves almost 30 feet (9 metres) high as Florence churned toward shore.

Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as a Category 1 with winds less than 100 miles per hour, but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion in damage. In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Trump said the government "got A Pluses" for storm recovery in Texas and Florida and "did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico". "Don't play games with it".

The White House has approved requests from North Carolina and SC for federal emergency declarations, allowing for greater coordination among states and federal agencies.

With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard. American, Delta, Southwest, United, and others will likely be canceling hundred more flights through the weekend.

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Home Depot and Lowe's activated emergency response centres to get generators, rubbish bags and bottled water to stores before and after the storm. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1100 trucks.

Serious flooding was also reported in SC, and several coastal communities were placed under nighttime curfews during the storm. In the eastern parts of the Carolinas, Duke says the outages could last several weeks before power is fully restored due to flooding.

"I came to video it so I can remember what it looked like before the storm because I just don't think a lot of this is going to be here (after Florence)", she said.

South Carolina's beach towns are more in the bull's-eye because of the shifting forecast.

Where is Hurricane Florence now?

Computer simulations - especially the often star-performing European model - push the storm further south, even into SC and Georgia. Reacting to the possibility of a more southerly track, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared an emergency but did not immediately order any evacuations.

When will Hurricane Florence hit Charlotte?

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It is now heading towards the US East Coast that it is predicted to hit on Friday. "If you're blowing 100 or 120 miles per hour on homes, they're going to start to deteriorate".

"We're just trying to plan for the future here, not having a house for an extended period of time", David Garrigus said.

"But I'm staying", she said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.

The storm's possible track now bends farther to the SW and closer to cities like Jacksonville, but it's the delay and the possible repeat of a Harvey-like storm cycle that has officials and weather forecasters anxious.

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