Hurricane Florence begins to batter U.S. east coast

Christopher Davidson
September 14, 2018

But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent". Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

In Wilmington, North Carolina, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.

On Thursday evening, Florence's forward movement was just 5mph.

Preceded first by the storm surge and the winds, heavy rains were picking up as of late Thursday afternoon, the beginning of an onslaught that for some areas may not relent for days.

And when it comes to impacts like storm surge, size matters just as much as the winds, says Rick Luettich, a coastal physical oceanographer at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's Institute of Marine Sciences. But even much lower flood levels can be unsafe and reach surprisingly far inland, as The Weather Channel demonstrated in a stunning video released today.

Air Force General Terrence J O'Shaughnessy, head of US Command, said search and rescue is a top priority but that the magnitude of the storm may exceed the ability of rescuers.

The storm's center was about 50 miles south of Morehead City at around 11 p.m. EST (0300 GMT Friday).

"This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.

A man waves the U.S. national flag in the wind and rain from from Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 13, 2018.

In the coastal town of New Bern, authorities were working to rescue at least 150 residents left stranded by flood waters, including 17 in one street. A city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been plucked to safety. The eye of that hurricane merely grazed the coast.

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Horton pleaded for volunteers to take in their animals for the duration of the storm, a common, plaintive refrain at other shelters across the area.

Mr Graham, who said the "worst case scenario" was coming true with Florence, said the Pamlico and Neuse rivers in North Carolina will see their flows "reversed" as storm surges push water back inland.

Florence is about 644 kilometres wide and it's winds have dropped from a peak of 225 km/h to 165 km/h, reducing the hurricane from a terrifying Category 4 to a Category 2.

It is set to make landfall midday today near Cape Fear, North Carolina, bringing up to 40 inches of rain, and storm surges as high as 13ft.

"This is an absolute life-threatening scenario".

The NHC went on to say that a few tornadoes could form in eastern and southeastern North Carolina into Friday. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington.

North Carolinians made last-minute preparations and hunkered down to await Florence's arrival.

"Inland flooding kills a lot of people unfortunately and that's what we're about to see".

The Saffir-Simpson scale that meteorologists use to measure hurricanes reflects only the wind speeds involved in the storm, and right now Hurricane Florence's winds are hovering at maximum speeds of about 110 miles per hour (175 km/h).

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