Hurricane Florence: Carolinas brace for 'storm of lifetime'

The eye of Hurricane Florence

Potential threats from hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes, and landslides. Surges as high as 9-to-13 feet are now forecast from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout. "It's a big one", he said at the White House.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses could be flooded in North Carolina alone, Governor Cooper warned.

Even if Florence were downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, it would still cause extensive damage, Abrams says.

Emma Smith, meteorologist with the Exeter-based Met Office, said more details would emerge within the next day over what impact the storm might have. "We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge".

Hurricane Florence is beginning to bear down on the Carolinas with heavy winds and rising tides. That's enough to fill more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools. Currently, the hurricane-force winds extend outward 80 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend almost 200 miles from the eye.

"It's cumulative damage", Myers said. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Some fluctuation in wind speeds are expected, and weakening forecast Thursday, but it's still expected to be a fierce storm triggering risky flooding.

The storm is expected to affect airports in Georgia and Virginia.

Florence is forecast to move near or over the coast of southern North Carolina and northeastern SC in the hurricane warning area Thursday night and Friday. The massive Category 2 storm is expected to make landfall near Wrightsville Beach, N.C. early Friday. The trend is "exceptionally bad news", said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy, since it "smears a landfall out over hundreds of miles of coastline, most notably the storm surge".

The good news is that scientists are getting better at predicting when torrential downpours will hit and residents of the Carolinas and Virginia located in the path of the storm have plenty of time to evacuate.

About 300,000 people have been evacuated from South Carolina, McMaster said.

Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from a lethal blow by Maria last year, could see some rain and gusty wind, but nothing close to last year.

As much as 40 inches of rain could fall in some areas, officials have warned.

Though most residents of North and SC and other areas in the hurricane's path have abided by the mandatory evacuation order, Kourounis jokes that the Waffle House is still open.

"Even the rescuers can not stay there", he said. They also have three dogs and three parrots. "Flooding is nearly guaranteed".

Susan Faulkenberry Panousis said she has stayed on Bald Head during prior hurricanes, but not this time. She packed up what she could and took a ferry. In contrast to the hurricane center's official projection, a highly regarded European model had the storm turning southward off the North Carolina coast and coming ashore near the Georgia-South Carolina line.

Early on Wednesday, astronaut Alexander Gerst captured this absolutely stunning image of Florence's eye from the International Space Station, some 250 miles above Earth. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths". Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles Islands on Thursday.

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