Hurricane Center: Florence close to landfall in N. Carolina

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 14, 2018

After maintaining Category 4 or 3 status most of Wednesday, Florence was a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph churning about 205 miles southeast of Wilmington, according to a 5 a.m. briefing by the National Hurricane Center. Pieces of buildings ripped apart by the storm flew through the air.

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

The powerful storm inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power. WTOP's Steve Dresner, who is in Morehead City, North Carolina, described the scene just after 10 p.m. Thursday: "I'm looking out a fourth floor balcony back to the center of Morehead City, and the lights are out". Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 130 kilometres from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 315 kilometres.

"It certainly is a challenge forecasting precise impacts when its exact track won't be known until a day in advance", Landsea said: There's "a huge difference" in the size and type of damage Florence inflicts if it stays 50 miles off shore versus heading inland immediately.

And in Wilmington, North Carolina, a steady rain began to fall as gusts of winds intensified, causing trees to sway and stoplights to flicker.

Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm overnight on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale but it is still packing hurricane-force winds of 100 miles (155 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The hurricane center also adjusted its projected track, but kept it north of what most computer models were showing, to provide some continuity with past forecasts. Despite its unpredictable path, it was forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at midday on Friday.

Avair Vereen, 39, took her seven children to a shelter in Conway High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

On Thursday evening, the Neuse River burst its banks which caused rapid flooding in New Bern, North Carolina, forcing residents to flee as the entire city lost power. Another 400 people were in shelters in Virginia, where forecasts were less dire.

By late Thursday afternoon, the Carolina coasts can expect winds stronger than 80 miles per hour.

It's unclear exactly how many people evacuated, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.

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.

Already Thursday, streets were transformed into raging streams and massive waves surged along the Outer Banks. Forecasters warned as the storm continues to widen - and it is likely to linger along the coast for days - the hurricane will bring seawater surging onto land along with torrential downpours. Although the storm has weakened to a Category 2, it's still expected to bring some bad weather to the area this weekend.

The result could be what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago: catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farms and industrial sites.

After criticism for its response in Puerto Rico to last year's Hurricane Maria, which officials there said was responsible for 3,000 deaths, Trump has vowed a vigorous response to Florence and defended his handling of Maria.

Not everyone was taking Florence too seriously: About two dozen locals gathered Thursday night behind the boarded-up windows of The Barbary Coast bar as Florence blew into Wilmington.

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