Hurricane Florence still a threat despite downgrade

Christopher Davidson
September 16, 2018

"Even after Hurricane Florence makes landfall, it's still forecast to just crawl west over SC, gradually weakening to a tropical storm", said FOX 46 Meteorologist Tara Lane.

"And that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew".

Georgia joined four other coastal states issuing an emergency declaration as the latest forecasts showed Florence dumping historic amounts of torrential rain on the southern state.

The wide storm weakened to a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday and forecasters expect it to weaken further as it nears the shore.

Florence's expanse has even captured the attention of the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, who have been tweeting pictures of the storm back to Earth. "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".

National Hurricane Center's latest report shows Hurricane Florence has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane with 110 miles per hour max sustained winds. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center, while tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

The precipitation from Florence will start midday Thursday and then it will rain for four days, said CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater.More than 1 million people are under mandatory evacuations in Virginia and the Carolinas, where up to 40 inches of rain could fall. "Don't play games with it".

"We'll handle it. We're ready".

President Donald Trump said Wednesday protecting lives is his "absolute highest priority".

The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast Saturday with winds of around 80 miles per hour before landfall, but with rainfall in the 20 to 30 inches range and up to 13 feet of storm surge.

The slow speed will give Florence time to pound the Carolinas with band after band of heavy rain, causing "catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding".

Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland.

"That's not necessarily connected to global warming, but that's an indication of what we might see in the future more often", he said.

Still uncertainty as Hurricane Florences path moves south
Last year's blitz of hurricanes was all the more unusual because the East Coast had enjoyed more than a decade of relative calm. Moreover, high tides around noon and midnight these next few days will make the storm surges even worse, Samson said.

"This is not going to be a glancing blow", Byard said, warning of power outages, road closures, infrastructure damage and potential loss of life.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore. It was located about 205 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (405 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving to the northwest at 15 mph.

About 1.5 million residents have already been ordered to evacuate the coastline of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and university campuses, schools and factories have been shuttered.

Forecasters anxious the storm's damage will be all the worse if it lingers on the coast.

The city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter.

A state of emergency has also been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.

A damaged awning is seen as winds from Hurricane Florence on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Hurricane Florence is hitting along the North Carolina and SC coastline bringing high winds and rain.

"All my staff are gone", Thompson said.

"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said. "The building's solid and Buddha will protect us". It's called Mother Nature.

"Everything is packed", Espinoza said. "I want to get them as far away as possible".

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably a 7" in terms of worry, she said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have minded staying here".

SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.

The US may have suffered its most costly year for hurricane damages last year but Florence, the first major storm of the 2018 hurricane season, represents an unusual sort of threat to coastal communities.

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