Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

More than 1 million under evacuation as Hurricane Florence nears

More than 1 million under evacuation as Hurricane Florence nears

Florence rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it closed in on North and SC, carrying winds and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.

South Carolina's governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon on Tuesday.

The storm's first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as unsafe rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway - the harbinger of a storm surge that could wipe out dunes and submerge entire communities. In the six decades since then, many thousands of people have moved to the coast.

For many, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other risky weather across a wide area.

Its projected path appears headed through the center of North Carolina but could also veer through SC and Virginia.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office predicted "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages", cautioning that the deadliest risk would come from flooding.

That means the hurricane will be dumping rain over multiple East Coast states, and it's not just a coastal problem.

If this is a Category 4 storm, it will be the fourth in history to ever make landfall north of Georgia (Hugo was in 1989, Gracie was in 1959, and Hazel was in 1954).

Florence became a hurricane on Sunday with sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour, CNN reported.

Hugo killed 27 people in SC and caused more than $9 billion in damage, which was the costliest hurricane on record at the time.

Oosterwyk was gathering tax documents and other important papers from her store on Monday, and said she planned to drive 150 miles inland to ride out the storm in the town of Cary.

Like Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Texas in 2017, Florence could linger over the Southeast for several days after landfall.

Florence was producing large swells expected to reach from the northern Caribbean to the southern coasts of Canada's maritime provinces.

Both governors pointed out the storms impact will reach well beyond the coast.

Maps of the storm's trajectory showed it most likely to hit the North Carolina shore near the SC border, making it the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. mainland this year and the first of its magnitude in 29 years to strike the Carolinas.

President Donald Trump is canceling a campaign rally in advance of Hurricane Florence's landfall.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

On its current track, Florence is expected to slam South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia the hardest.

On Monday, Gov. Cooper asked for a Federal Disaster Declaration for the state.

This happened a year ago, too, when Hurricane Jose and Tropical Storms Maria and Lee were churning at the same time.

"We do not want to risk one SC life in this hurricane", Governor Henry McMaster said at a news conference.

"I've been doing this since 1983", Roberts said as he completed an order for another load of supplies.

"We've got more on the way", he said.

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