Hurricane Florence Expected to Cause at Least $27 Billion in Damages

Hotels in the path of Hurricane Florence brace for the storm. Properties fill up as residents evacuate

With maximum sustained winds of 130mph Florence is a Category 4 hurricane, but according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) winds could reach up to 155 miles per hour becoming a Category 5 hurricane before it makes landfall.

While much of the focus ahead of Hurricane Florence has been on the coastal areas, weather experts are warning the Category 4 storm could bring catastrophic flooding and damaging winds to major cities well inland.

Businesses and homes in the storm's path were boarded up and thousands of people had moved to emergency shelters, officials said, urging anyone who remained near the coast to flee.

A million people have been ordered to leave the US coast and millions more prepared for Florence's predicted arrival on late Thursday or early Friday.

Rain will overspread Virginia on Friday with tropical storm force winds possible on Saturday, especially across Southside Virginia.

Florence catapulted from a Category 2 to a Category 4 hurricane over the span of several hours.

North Carolina has waived transportation rules to help farmers move crops and livestock ahead of the most severe storm to threaten the US mainland this year.

The storm is now 845 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. Its hurricane-force winds extend up to 60 miles from the storm's center.

Ahead of Florence's arrival, barrier islands were already seeing risky rip currents and seawater flowed over a state highway - the harbinger of a storm surge that could wipe out dunes and submerge entire communities.

Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm.

North Carolina's governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation for the state's barrier islands as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast.

Hurricanes nearly always set off an orchestrated dance on Wall Street before they make landfall, with shares of property and casualty insurance companies dumped in favour of companies that sell construction supplies or portable generators. A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches (150 centimetres) for Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, so "you start to wonder what these models know that we don't", University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy said.

Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and plan to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington's eerily named Landfall neighbourhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm, with plenty of wine.

Hurricane Florence, a powerful Category 3 storm, is closing in on the Southeast, bringing threatening winds, a high storm surge and tons of rain.

"While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through landfall".

Coastal and river communities on the north side of Florence are getting the worst of the flooding as the hurricane swirls onto land pushing a life-threatening storm surge.

The largest airlines in the USA aren't the only carriers waiving change fees for Florence.

The storm is expected to stall over North Carolina, slowly making its way across the state and into southwestern Virginia.

According to AAA, the storm "will likely have an impact on East Coast gas prices this week should the storm follow its projected path".

"The key really is this thing is going to be a huge storm when it threatens the coast and this is just something that doesn't happen every day when you see things lining up as they are", he continued. "We are sparing no expense", said the president.

Pan and Phillips point out that even with losses exceeding $140 billion past year, the insurance industry remains well capitalized. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months.

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