Published: Tue, September 18, 2018
Sci-tech | By Eric Barnett

'Time running out' for residents to escape Hurricane Florence

'Time running out' for residents to escape Hurricane Florence

But by Thursday morning, hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles beyond the center of Florence.

The storm was expected to linger over the coast through Saturday, dumping between 20 and 30 inches of rain and creating up to 13 feet of storm surge.

Gradually, Friday through the weekend (local time), the massive storm - containing a zone of tropical-storm-force winds almost 643km wide - will drift inland, engulfing much of SC and southern North Carolina.

As of the 8 a.m. advisory released by the National Hurricane Center, Florence is about 275 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and about 220 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

This same zone will be hammered by winds gusting up to hurricane force for almost a day while tropical-storm conditions could linger twice that long.

Florence is expected to produce heavy and excessive rainfall, the NHC said, with 20 to 30 inches, isolated 40 inches, in coastal North Carolina into far northeastern SC.

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

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, the National Weather Service said.

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.

Even as the first bands of Florence's rains and strong winds began to whip North Carolina's shore Thursday morning, ocean water ran into the streets on the southern end of North Carolina's Hatteras Island, according to The Virginian-Pilot's Jeff Hampton.

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Hurricane Florence's winds and rain begin lashing US Carolinas coast

Quinn is no stranger to hurricanes, and while he isn't evacuating, he said he and the brewery staff are preparing for a walloping. "Don't play games with it. We are totally prepared", Trump said at the White House. More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. The two hardware chains said they sent in a total of around 1100 trucks. Millions were expected to lose power, perhaps for weeks.

"We just thought we'd go out while we still can", said Amy Baxter, on a walk near the city's waterfront with her husband, two sons and dog.

The South Carolina record may fall too. The timing of the official landfall could change with any shift in Florence's track over the next 12-18 hours. Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico last September, blacked out the entire island of about 3.3 million people.

"We've had our lessons".

"Your time is running out", he said.

As Florence closed in, President Donald Trump and state and local officials urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate.

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.

If the European model is true or the overall trend persists, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said it "is exceptionally bad news, as it smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge". Emergency declarations were in force in Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Most other beachgoers were long gone. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said. "You feel like you should have already left".

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Thousands of water bottles left on an naval base tarmac in Ceiba, Puerto Rico that were meant for Hurricane Maria survivors. The study also found that the elderly and low-income Puerto Ricans were the most affected by the storm.

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