Hurricane Florence: Typhoon Edges Closer With Life-Threatening Storm Surge
The outer reaches of Hurricane Florence began lashing coastal North Carolina with heavy winds and flooded roads on Thursday ahead of an expected landfall that will bring walls of water and lingering downpours to parts of the US East Coast.
The center of Florence, which has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast on Friday, then drift southwest before moving inland on Saturday, enough time to drop as much as one meter of rain in some places, according to the National Hurricane Center.
An estimated 10 million people live in the storm's path, according to the US Weather Prediction Center, and coastal businesses and homes were boarded up in anticipation. More than one million people had been ordered to evacuate the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia and thousands moved to emergency shelters, officials said.
According to reports from Carolina Beach in North Carolina, the situation is going to intensify as the storm moves closer to the shore line.
Florence's maximum sustained winds were clocked on Thursday at 165 kilometers per hour after it was downgraded to a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the NHC. The winds had been as high as 140 miles per hour (roughly 225kph) earlier in the week.
But North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned: "Don't relax, don't get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today the threat becomes a reality."
Some people who had rejected calls to evacuate the area in danger area took walks along the water as they tried to enjoy a few final hours of normalcy before Florence's fury arrived.
Sixteen kilometers away in the city of Wilmington, wind gusts were stirring up frothy white caps into the Cape Fear River.
"We're a little worried about the storm surge so we came down to see what the river is doing now," said Linda Smith, 67, a retired nonprofit director. "I am frightened about what’s coming. We just want prayers from everyone."
The storm's center was about 180km east of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 2pm local time (18:00 GMT) but tropical storm-strength winds and heavy rains already were hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands. The main highway in the Outer Banks was closed in parts as seawater pushed in. Flooding from rain and rising rivers also was reported in New Bern.
Some 11,000 power outages have been reported in North Carolina.
The hurricane center also said the threat of tornadoes was increasing as the storm neared the shore.
Florence could bring wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as four meters and NHC Director Ken Graham said on Facebook they could push in as far as three kilometers. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachian mountains, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team