Evacuations as `Big and vicious' Hurricane Florence closes in on Carolinas

Michele Stevens
September 12, 2018

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.

As Hurricane Florence continues to edge toward North Carolina, the National Weather Service's Wilmington office anticipates the storm will cause "life-threatening" storm surge along parts of the coast.

Watches in effect Tuesday forecast a storm surge of up to 12 feet at high tide from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout in North Carolina. Mass evacuations were ordered across North and SC and Virginia, and states of emergency were issued by the federal government.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Hurricane Helene is now located about 375 miles west of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 kph), the storm was due to gain even greater strength before making landfall early on Thursday, bringing heavy rains with the potential to unleash widespread, severe flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. Its maximum sustained winds are at 105 miles per hour (165 kph).

People drive over a drawbridge in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., as they evacuate the area in advance of Hurricane Florence, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Runoff into area rivers there could lead to elevated water levels or flooding.

If the center of the hurricane does come ashore in the Wilmington area, some of the strongest winds and rain could strike the sprawling Marine base since much of the worst weather will be in the northeast quadrant of the storm.

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.

"We've seen nor'easters and we've seen hurricanes before", Cooper said, "but this one is different". However, this would also mean that temperatures will be able to warm to the mid 90s in the afternoon. Tuesday morning's data from hurricane-hunting aircraft supports this forecast, the center said. It was moving between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before nearing the Carolinas on Thursday. Mid September is peak hurricane season and it's not unusual to have multiple storms in the ocean at the same time.

Tropical storm Isaac is forecast to grow in strength, but it is expected to maintain a steady westward track through the Caribbean Sea into the weekend.

Airlines, including American, Southwest, Delta and JetBlue, have begun letting affected passengers change travel plans without the usual fees.

However, Hubbard said Florence is not expected to have any impact on Canada, given its predicted track into the US mainland, where it will likely weaken considerably on the weekend.

The U.S. military said it was sending an advance team to Raleigh, North Carolina, to coordinate with federal and state partners.

Liz Browning Fox was planning to ride out the storm nevertheless on the Outer Banks.

"You never know, there could be tree missiles coming from any direction", she said.

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