Florence Bears Down on US East Coast

BILL CHAPELL

Hurricane Florence is blasting toward the Carolinas, carrying sustained winds of up to 130 mph and the threat of “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center says.

A hurricane warning – meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours — is in effect for a long stretch of the coast, from the Santee River in South Carolina to Duck, N.C., which is part of the Outer Banks.

Hurricane conditions will likely hit the area around North Carolina’s southern coast on Friday, but tropical storm conditions will arrive on Thursday, according to the hurricane center.

“Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. “If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely.”

The time to prepare for the storm is almost over, he said.

Shortly before 11 a.m. ET, Florence was 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., moving northwest at 15 mph, the National Hurricane Center says.

The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in South Carolina and North Carolina, with more than a million people urged to get out of Florence’s way. Governors of those states have already declared states of emergency, as have the governors of Virginia and Maryland.

Forecasters have adjusted Hurricane Florence’s projected path, saying that after it makes landfall, it is likely to take a more southerly route than expected. Rather than pushing up toward western Virginia, the storm’s center is now predicted to move across the middle of South Carolina.

For a swath of the North Carolina shore from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, the storm surge could range from 9-13 feet, the NHC said. In Myrtle Beach, S.C., and nearby areas, the surge could hit 6-9 feet.

“An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft that was in the hurricane until just after midnight” recorded a wind gust of around 150 mph, according to the hurricane center. Florence is currently heading for ocean water with surface temperatures of around 85 degrees, meaning it will likely strengthen on its way to the East Coast.