Hurricane Florence Stalks US East Coast
Monday, more than 1-M people were ordered to evacuate the path of Hurricane Florence as the Category 4 storm packing winds of 130 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) bore down on the East Coast of the United States.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told up to 1-M residents of the state’s eastern coast to leave their homes ahead of the powerful storm’s arrival Thursday.
The Governor of neighboring North Carolina also ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks and parts of coastal Dare County while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia.
“This is a very dangerous hurricane,” Governor McMaster said, adding that the evacuation order for coastal counties was “mandatory, not voluntary.”
“We do not want to risk 1 South Carolina life in this hurricane,” the Governor told a press conference. “We’re liable to have a whole lot of flooding.”
Hurricane Florence has the potential to bring catastrophic flooding to areas of the eastern United States already soaked by heavy rain and may be the strongest storm to hit the region in decades.
A Category 4 on the 5-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, Florence was 575 miles (925 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda and the center of the hurricane was forecast to pass between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.
“Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen,” the NHC said at 1500 GMT. “Florence is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday.”
President Donald Trump tweeted out a message to residents in the storm’s path, urging them to heed the warnings of state and local officials.
“To the incredible citizens of North Carolina, South Carolina and the entire East Coast – the storm looks very bad!” wrote the president, who cancelled a planned rally Friday in Jackson, Mississippi in light of the approaching storm.
“Please take all necessary precautions. We have already began mobilizing our assets to respond accordingly, and we are here for you!”
On its current track, Florence is expected to slam the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s office warned of “catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages,” cautioning that the deadliest risk would come from flooding.
The US Navy said it was preparing to send about 30 ships stationed in Virginia out to sea.
The vessels will get underway from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek to avoid potential damage from winds and tidal surges, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said.
Heavy rain in the Washington area over the weekend has already led to flooding in historic Alexandria, Virginia, and the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for part of the Potomac River.
Florence is currently moving west at around 13 mph (20 kph).
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s office said Florence is already being felt along the state’s coast, with large sea swells resulting in life-threatening rip currents and surf.
“This is a huge storm,” said the Chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, predicting 15 to 20 ins of rain.
“Never have we seen quite this type of a storm approach us.”
At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by 2 other hurricanes, Helene and Isaac.