MIAMI – More than 1.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes along the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina as a preventive measure with the approach of Hurricane Florence, which could become a Category 5 storm before it makes landfall in the area later this week.
Hurricane Florence is packing sustained winds of 140 miles (220 km) per hour and remains an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm as it approaches the US eastern coastline, specifically the Carolinas.
In its 5 pm advisory on Tuesday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said that the eye of Florence was located 360 miles (580 km) south-southwest of Bermuda and 785 mi. (1,260 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving west-northwest at 17 mph (28 kph).
NHC experts warned that “life-threatening storm surge (is) possible along the coasts of North and South Carolina.”
“Further strengthening is forecast tonight and Wednesday. While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through landfall,” the NHC said.
The first waves directly kicked up by the huge storm system should begin coming ashore late Wednesday, and Florence is expected to bring very heavy storm surge, rain and flooding to the entire region on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Beyond the Carolinas and Virginia, which are expected to bear the brunt of the storm, rain and flooding are expected through next week in certain parts of Tennessee, Georgia, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Maryland and the District of Columbia have declared states of emergency in the past few hours in preparation for the storm.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in North and South Carolina, thus facilitating federal aid to those states, and he cancelled several campaign events he had scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
“The safety of the American people is my absolute highest priority. We are sparing no expense,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office after meeting with Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Administration officials
Trump said that his administration is “ready. We are as ready as anyone has ever been,” adding: “This is going to be a very large one ... It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water.”
Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been declared from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina.
A hurricane watch has been placed in effect for Edisto Beach South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border, and a storm surge watch is in place for the same zone.
The storm surge will bring significant flooding of between 9-13 feet (2.75-4 meters) from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, 6-9 feet (1.8-2.75 meters) between North Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear, and 2-4 feet (60-120 cm) to the area between Edisto Beach and Murrells Inlet.
A total of 15-20 inches (38-50 cm) of rain is expected, with isolated areas of up to 30 inches (76 cm), in parts of North Carolina, Virginia and the northern part of South Carolina through Saturday.
So far during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season there have been nine tropical storms, of which five – Beryl, Chris, Helen, Isaac and Florence – have become hurricanes.