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14 September 2018, 06:18 | Dale Webster
Hurricane Florence Could Bring Up To 30 Inches Of Rain To Carolinas
Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with howling 90 miles per hour winds and terrifying storm surge early Friday, ripping apart buildings and knocking out power to a half-million homes and businesses as it settled in for what could be a long and extraordinarily destructive drenching.
Wind gusts from Florence could reach tropical storm force (39+ mph), while sustained winds are expected to be in the 20-30 miles per hour range.
As of 5 a.m. EDT it was centered about 205 miles (325 kilometers) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and about 250 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).
Florence's hurricane force winds now extends 80 miles from the center, while the tropical storm force winds reaches almost 200 miles, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls across the Carolinas. "Not only that, but the wind field actually expands as the center of circulation starts to lose some intensity, you'll start to get hurricane force winds further out from the storm".
The city of Jacksonville's statement says people have been moved to the city's public safety center as officials work to find a more permanent shelter. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and the rain and storm surge will make Florence extremely risky.
More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing motel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued.
Duke Energy, the nation's No. 2 power company, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its four million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it closed the ports of Wilmington and Moorehead City in North Carolina and restricted port operations in Charleston, South Carolina.
Accuweather reported that its meteorologists "believe that the hurricane will stall and meander near the Carolina coast from Thursday night to Saturday". Forecasters said the onslaught could last for days, leaving a wide area under water from both heavy downpours and rising seas.
STORM SURGE: The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.
Kelly Salisbury said she's staying put in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, even though most of the town left.
FlightAware expects the number of cancellations to rise, although "the limited number of hubs being impacted by Florence will likely limit the scale of disruption that cascades through the national air travel system", spokeswoman Sara Orsi said in a statement.
"Surviving this storm will be a test of endurance, teamwork, common sense and patience". Forecasts show those currents giving Florence no sense of direction in a day or so.
Governor Roy Cooper requested the added disaster declaration on Thursday (local time) because he anticipates what his office calls "historic major damage" across the state from the hurricane.
More than 80,000 people were already without power as the storm began buffeting the coast, and more than 12,000 were in shelters. That forecast area also includes part of southwest Virginia.
Prisoners were affected, too.
It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out.
By midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington. Ocean water flowed between homes and on to streets on the Outer Banks; waves crashed against wooden fishing piers. It's now predicted to make landfall near Wilmington and then head west across SC.
The National Hurricane Center warned Thursday that the storm will "pile up water" along the coast.
This doesn't mean that the storm isn't just as unsafe, as the bulk of the damage and possible loss of life will likely come from the 9-foot storm surge or up to 40 inches of rain that meteorologists are predicting.
The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as sluggish and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago.
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In Myrtle Beach, ABC correspondent Pete Combs painted a starker picture of those who made a decision to stay in place. But, knowing the intensity of Florence's impact on Myrtle Beach, "My friends are worrying me right now", Combs said.
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