Lapse footage captured hurricane-hunting plane fly through Florence

Christopher Davidson
September 15, 2018

The National Hurricane Center's best guess was that Florence would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog its rainy way westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses and farm fields.

The center of Florence, no longer classified as a major hurricane but still posing a grave threat to life and property, is expected to strike North Carolina's southern coast on September 14, then drift southwest along the shoreline before moving inland on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. There is also a "slight" risk of tornadoes in the coastal region of North Carolina.

A National Weather Service forecaster said: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast". This storm is extremely unsafe. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge.

Officials in New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, have stockpiled enough food and water for 60,000 people for four days, along with more than 28,000 tarps. The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". For comparison, Hurricane Irene caused a 7-foot surge in 2011, and Hurricane Hazel caused an 18-foot surge in Calabash and Carolina Shores in 1954.

The Weather Channel estimates that storm surges of nine feet could cause floods that are so high they might cover the entire first floor of buildings. The first tropical-storm-strength winds are now expected to hit on Thursday at 2 p.m. and last throughout the weekend.

The hurricane is forecast to slow to a crawl just off the North Carolina coast on Friday, possibly moving at only two to three miles per hour.

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An area from Virginia Beach to Charleston can also expect closer to 6 inches.

Hurricane Florence, once rumored to strike as a Category-5 storm, will strike with less powerful wind, but it will drop much more rain on the area than initially expected.

Masters said there's a tug-of-war between two clear skies high pressure systems - one off the coast and one over MI - and the more the Great Lakes one wins, the more southerly Florence will be.

Instead, the storm is now expected to make landfall over Wilmington, traveling south over Myrtle Beach between Friday and Saturday, and then traveling through SC and North Carolina to the Tennessee border through Sunday into Monday.

Forecasters expected some strengthening in the next 36 hours, as Florence marched west-northwest at 20kmh.

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