Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily Updates

'Big and vicious': Hurricane Florence closes in on Carolinas

Motorists are streaming inland, trying to get out of harm's way, as Hurricane Florence closes in on the Carolinas

  • Tropical-Weather-31

    People drive over a drawbridge in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., as they evacuate the area in advance of Hurricane Florence, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    Chuck Burton

  • Tropical-Weather-1-16

    From left, Josh Clappsy, Blake Price, and JB Phillips remove boards from a dock in hopes to save it from rising waters in Swansboro, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Tom Copeland)

    Tom Copeland

  • Tropical-Weather-2-14

    Workers cover the windows of the historic Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, S.C., in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Mic Smith

  • Trump-3-177

    President Donald Trump looks at a chart showing potential rainfall totals from Hurricane Florence during a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Susan Walsh

  • Tropical-Weather-South-Carolina-4-1

    Police cars block the Ashley Phosphate Road exit ramp off Interstate 26 in North Charleston, S.C., as both sides of the highway flow westbound toward Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in preparation for Hurricane Florence. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Mic Smith

  • Tropical-Weather-5-12

    This GOES East satellite image taken Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic Ocean as it threatens the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina. Millions of Americans are preparing for what could be one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades. Mandatory evacuations begin at noon Tuesday, for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia (NOAA via AP)

    AP

  • Tropical-Weather-6-10

    This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence, third from right, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. At right is Hurricane Helene, and second from right is Tropical Storm Isaac. (NOAA via AP)

    AP

  • Tropical-Weather-7-8

    Nick Hobbs, of Marine Warehouse Center, removes a customer's boat from the water in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    Chuck Burton

  • Tropical-Weather-8-11

    Michelle Stober, of Cary, N.C., removes food from a freezer as she prepares their vacation home in advance of Hurricane Florence in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic hurricane Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 140 mph (220 kph) and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    Chuck Burton

  • Tropical-Weather-North-Carolina-9-5

    Storefronts have wood paneling installed over windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a precaution against storm damage from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    Gray Whitley

  • Tropical-Weather-North-Carolina-10-2

    Robert Patch and John Courtney, of Local Builder's Construction, install wood paneling over windows at the Armstrong Grocery , Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as storeowners and residents prepare for Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    Gray Whitley

  • Tropical-Weather-11-10

    Aubrey Polar, 13, right, of Wilmington, N.C., puts her arm around her sister Sadie Polar, 6, as they look toward the ocean in advance of Hurricane Florence on Wrightsville Beach, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    Chuck Burton

  • Tropical-Weather-Animal-Evacuations-12-1

    Laura Gretch, Humane Rescue Alliance transport manager, holds Frances, an 8-year-old Chihuahua mix who is one of the 26 cats and dogs arriving at Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, from Norfolk Animal Care and Control of Norfolk, Va., in advance of Hurricane Florence. People aren't the only ones evacuating to get out of the path of Hurricane Florence. The dogs and cats will all be available for adoption.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    Carolyn Kaster

  • Tropical-Weather-13-10

    A worker covers a window at Charleston City Hall in Charleston, S.C., in preparation for the advancing Hurricane Florence Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

    Mic Smith

  • Tropical-Weather-North-Carolina-14-1

    An auto parts store has wood paneling installed over the windows, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in New Bern, N.C., as a precaution against storm damage from Hurricane Florence. (Gray Whitley/Sun Journal via AP)

    Gray Whitley

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Motorists streamed inland on highways converted to one-way evacuation routes Tuesday as about 1.7 million people in three states were warned to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a hair-raising storm taking dead aim at the Carolinas with 140 mph winds and potentially ruinous rains.

Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday, then slow down and wring itself out for days, unloading 1 to 2½ feet of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Forecasters and politicians pleaded with the public to take the warnings seriously and minced no words in describing the threat.

“This storm is a monster. It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

He added: “The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”

Some hoped for divine intervention.

“I’m prayed up and as ready as I can get,” Steven Hendrick said as he filled up gasoline cans near Conway, South Carolina.

More than 5.4 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches on the U.S. East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, and another 4 million people were under a tropical storm watch.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. He said the federal government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Florence.

All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast. But getting out of harm’s way could prove difficult.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 300 miles ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swath from South Carolina to Ohio and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

People across the region rushed to buy bottled water and other supplies, board up their homes, pull their boats out of the water and get out of town.

A line of heavy traffic moved away from the coast on Interstate 40, the main route between the port city of Wilmington and inland Raleigh. Between the two cities, about two hours apart, the traffic flowed smoothly in places and became gridlocked in others because of fender-benders.

Only a trickle of vehicles was going in the opposite direction, including pickup trucks carrying plywood and other building materials.

Long lines formed at service stations, and some started running out of gas as far west as Raleigh, with bright yellow bags, signs or rags placed over the pumps to show they were out of order. Some store shelves were picked clean.

“There’s no water. There’s no juices. There’s no canned goods,” Kristin Harrington said as she shopped at a Walmart in Wilmington.

At 11 p.m., the storm was centered 670 miles southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., moving at 17 mph. It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph or higher.

Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

The coastal surge from Florence could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet of water in spots, projections showed.

“This one really scares me,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

Federal officials begged residents to put together emergency kits and have a plan on where to go.

“This storm is going to knock out power days into weeks. It’s going to destroy infrastructure. It’s going to destroy homes,” said Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Forecasters said parts of North Carolina could get 20 inches of rain, if not more, with as much as 10 inches elsewhere in the state and in Virginia, parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

One trusted computer model, the European simulation, predicted more than 45 inches in parts of North Carolina. A year ago, people would have laughed off such a forecast, but the European model was accurate in predicting 60 inches 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.

Rain measured in feet is “looking likely,” he said.

The storm forced people to cut their vacations short along the coast.

Paula Matheson of Springfield, Ore., got the full Southern experience during her 10-week RV vacation: hot weather, good food, beautiful beaches and, finally, a hurricane evacuation.

Florence interrupted her stay on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It took Matheson and her husband nearly the whole day Monday to drive the 60 miles off the barrier island .

“It was so beautiful. The water was fabulous. Eighty-five degrees,” Matheson said, pausing a moment. “I guess that’s a big part of the problem.”

Florence’s projected path includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in huge lagoons.

Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.

North Carolina’s governor issued what he called a first-of-its-kind mandatory evacuation order for North Carolina’s fragile barrier islands from one end of the coast to the other. Typically, local governments in North Carolina make the call on evacuations.

“We’ve seen nor’easters and we’ve seen hurricanes before,” Cooper said, “but this one is different.”


Click to comment

Related

© 2018 Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, WI. All rights reserved.

To Top
Applying filter…