Storm now a Category 2, still unsafe

As of Wednesday morning, 20 eastern North Carolina counties were under either a mandatory or voluntary evacuation, or some combination of the two, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety. "You're going to be displaced from your home in coastal areas".

The time to prepare for the storm is nearly over, he said. The wind speed will start to pick up and rain will start to fall, worsening into the evening.

The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than a million people urged to get out of Florence's way.

Overall, risky storm surge is possible all the way from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to the North Carolina/Virginia border. Strong winds can in themselves be very damaging, leading to roof damage, tree damage, and even mass structural damage.

Meteorology director Jeff Masters at the private Weather Underground says Florence will come "roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland'".

Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered evacuations in counties along the state's coast, including Charleston.

The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were headed to the region while shelters were set up to house those unable to flee. He adds, "Business in Myrtle Beach are to have operations ceased and secured by 5 this afternoon". "Get food, water. Medications they may need".

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 with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.

Even with some weakening that's predicted just before it makes landfall, the storm "is expected to remain a unsafe major hurricane as it approaches the coastline", the hurricane center said.

Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye, and it's well organized.

The storm's maximum sustained winds were clocked late on Wednesday at 110 miles per hour (175 kph), down from a peak of 140 mph a day earlier, before it was downgraded to a Category 3, then a Category 2, on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of wind strength. It caused most of the 1,200 deaths in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "So Florence is kind of spreading out, becoming a much larger, more stable hurricane".

An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, according to the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the Carolinas hard. "In light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall, I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas". Floyd produced 24 inches of rain in some parts of the state, while Florence has already dumped about 30 inches in areas around Swansboro.

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center said.

The tropical storm-force winds extend 280 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, which is far enough to reach from Boston to Philadelphia. "We are ready for the big one that is coming!"

To back up that point, Graham cited a sobering statistic: "50 percent of the fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge - and that's not just along the coast". Rivers will continue to rise days after the rain has stopped, he said.

Communities could lose electricity for weeks, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said.

"Almost every North Carolinian is going to be affected by this storm in one way or another", Cooper said. "It's called Mother Nature. As guests stock up, we know some of these items are selling out, but we're working around the clock to restock them as long as we safely can", the company said in a statement.

  • Joe Gonzales