Hurricane Florence's uncertain track sows fear; 10 million in crosshairs

James Marshall
September 15, 2018

With reports of skyscraper-likes waves out at sea, the potential for historic coastal surges and rainfalls, and severe threats to vulnerable nuclear plants and other industrial waste sites-a behemoth Hurricane Florence is fast-approaching the southeastern US coast on Wednesday as weather experts and emergency management officials intensifying their warnings about the dangers the storm poses.

As of 2 p.m., the Category 3 storm was centered 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, moving at 16 mph (26 kph), with the potential for 1 to 3 feet of rain in places - enough to touch off catastrophic flooding inland and an environmental disaster, too, if the water inundates the region's many industrial waste sites and hog manure ponds.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Wilmington, N.C., said Florence "will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast", in a statement early Wednesday morning. As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on the state's Outer Banks barrier islands, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

Caitie Sweeney of Myrtle Beach texts her family while visiting the beach ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Lt. Col. Lindy White, an Oklahoma National Guard spokeswoman, said officials from East Coast states are expected to request additional assistance in the days to come. "We just need to figure out how to make it through".

Florence is the most risky of three tropical systems in the Atlantic.

"It's insane", he said in a phone interview.

"Afterwards, I'm going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I'm walking the neighbourhood and making sure my neighbours are fine, because nobody can get in here".

North and SC and Virginia declared emergencies earlier in the week. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks. In contrast to the hurricane center's official track, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. Some of those who stayed went to shelters while others stuck it out in their homes.

"It looks heavy outside", she said. Airlines had canceled almost 1,000 flights and counting through Friday. In the Philippines, evacuations were under way with Super Typhoon Mangkhut expected to hit on Saturday in an area impacting an estimated 5.2 million people.

Even with some weakening that's predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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