Storm surge could be Hurricane Florence's deadliest, most destructive threat

Hurricane Florence from space

Hurricane Florence from space

A storm surge warning, with anticipation of life-threatening inundation of rising water on the coast within the next 36 hours, is in effect for the South Santee River, S.C., to Duck, N.C., including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers at the Abemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

A FEMA official warned Wednesday that Hurricane Florence "is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast" as evacuations continued in preparation for the historic storm. "You're going to be displaced from your home in coastal areas. We wanted to make sure our associates had time to take care of their families", said Walmart spokesman Phil Keene. After Florence's rain starts to fall this week, he said, the rainfall could continue through Monday.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia.

The last time the U.S. capital declared a state of emergency was in January 2016 when a winter storm dubbed "Snowzilla" blanketed the capital region in knee-deep snow. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal followed suit on Wednesday.

Forecasters are predicting that Florence will make landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as a still powerful Category 3 hurricane.

Experts believe that the Category 4 storm will hover off the southern North Carolina coast from Thursday night until landfall Saturday morning or so, then veer south through SC and Georgia into Monday.

"Later in the period, the dynamical model spread increases but most of the guidance has continued its southward shift, and now take Florence southwestward near the coast of SC by day 4", the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

The damage occurred even though Sandy spun ashore as the equivalent of only a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of about 80 miles per hour, and was downgraded below hurricane status shortly thereafter.

For a swathe of the North Carolina shore from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, the storm surge could range from 9-13 feet, the NHC said.




Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.

While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings extending over the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the east coast, many were not taking any chances. In North Carolina, Cooper says, "2,800 soldiers will be on active duty, joined by even more on standby".

"This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news briefing. "Get food, water. Medications they may need". Thinking of the outages likely to come it also warns to use grills and generators outside - away from doors and windows.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

Florence is now heading for ocean water that has surface temperatures of about 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.

Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye and is well organized.

As of 8.00am (1200 GMT), it was packing sustained winds of 130 miles (210 kilometres) per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.

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