Thursday, 21 February, 2019

'Very dangerous' hurricane starts battering US East Coast

Kristopher Love | 14 September, 2018, 03:44

When fierce winds keep up for a long time, homes are "going to start to deteriorate".

An onlooker checks out the heavy surf at the Avalon Fishing Pier in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina on Sep 13, 2018 as Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast. Here's why this storm threatens not only the coast but millions of people inland. "Life-threatening storm surge and rainfall expected". These unforgiving winds will damage homes and buildings, down trees and knock out power.

Most of those cancellations are tied to the approaching hurricane, now a Category 2 storm with winds expected onshore late Thursday at more than 80 miles per hour.

Also spinning in the Atlantic are Tropical Storms Helene and Isaac and Subtropical Storm Joyce, while Tropical Depression Olivia and Super Typhoon Mangkhut are making waves in the Pacific.

Forecasters said Florence's eye could come ashore early Friday around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Widespread rainfall amounts could reach 152mm to 300mm, spurring flooding. The storm will have winds in the 110 miles per hour range.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference, that a "historic storm" would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state.

As of 8:00 am (1200 GMT), the eye of the storm was 170 miles (275 km) east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 12 mph. It's moving at 15 miles per hour, but as it nears the Carolina coast, it will dramatically slow down.

Despite the downgrade from Category 4 to Category 2, authorities warned that Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land. This includes Wilmington. A hurricane watch extends into the Charleston area.

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

"It's getting late to evacuate", said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.

But between evacuations and storm shutter installations, NASA and NOAA are keeping people informed and entertained.

"It's still going to be the same result with the amount of water that's being pushed on shore", he explained. His remarks fell flat in Puerto Rico where islanders are continuing to struggle to recover a year after the Category 4 storm.

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

"It has moved in", said Jordan Baker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Wilmington.

Emergency preparations in SC now include more than 2,100 of the state's National Guard soldiers. More to come on this part of the forecast.

A smaller hurricane dubbed Isaac is reportedly heading for the Caribbean, while Hurricane Helene - now also in the Atlantic - is forecast to track towards the UK. "I never got the sense that I needed to leave".

On Twitter, users wrote or even joked about their hurricane parties.

As many as 1.5 million people are believed to live within mandatory evacuation zones.

While it is extremely likely that the eastern Carolinas will be hardest hit by the storm Thursday into Friday (local time), the storm's direction becomes far less certain over the weekend and next week.

In South Carolina and inland parts of North Carolina, 5 to 10 inches of rain could fall, with 20 inches possible in some areas.