Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Florence by the numbers: Strongest wind gust in 60 years hits Wilmington

Florence by the numbers: Strongest wind gust in 60 years hits Wilmington

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned people: "Today the threat becomes a reality". "We're liable to have a whole lot of flooding".

An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory, said Marc Chenard of the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Hurricane Florence began lashing the North Carolina coast on Thursday, with heavy surf pounding the Outer Banks and barrier islands, winds shredding flags, and a storm surge pushing seawater over some beaches and past oceanfront homes.

Sib McLellan, left, and his wife, Lisa, prepare for Hurricane Florence. Its forward movement was 6 miles per hour (9 kph).

The NHC said hurricane-force winds extended outward 80 miles from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds extended almost 195 miles out.

The Miami-based center says Florence is bringing "catastrophic" fresh water flooding over a wide area of the Carolinas.

The storm has slowed down and is forecast to travel across SC after it makes landfall.

At least 12,000 people had taken refuge in 126 emergency shelters, Governor Cooper said, with more facilities being opened.

Officials found a basketball-sized hole in the hotel wall and other life-threatening damage, with some cinder blocks crumbling and parts of the roof collapsing.

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Officials said people refusing to evacuate could end up alone, drenched and in the dark, as rescue crews won't go out to help in winds above 50 miles per hour.

In Hampton Roads, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Poquoson to the Virginia-North Carolina border, including the lower James and York rivers. A city spokeswoman Colleen Roberts told WRAL-TV that 200 people have already been plucked to safety. "The water looming over Dr. Navarro is a brilliant way of showing the dangers of storm surge". "Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you".

The NHC predicts the storm will continue in that direction and approach the coast of the Carolinas, entering the hurricane warning area by Thursday and moving slowly near the coastline through Saturday. WTOP's Steve Dresner, who is in Morehead City, North Carolina, described the scene just after 10 p.m. Thursday: "I'm looking out a fourth floor balcony back to the center of Morehead City, and the lights are out".

Since then, Florence has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, and made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, early Friday morning.

"We're still going to get catastrophic inland flooding from heavy rains and multibillion-dollar storm-surge damage along the coast where it hits, " said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Emerald Isle is about 84 miles (135 kilometers) north of Wilmington.

The Wilmington area is also at the center of predictions for extreme levels of rainfall; while inland area can expect 7 to 20 inches, Wilmington can expect 2 to 3 feet of rain, according to the NWS - that's likely to eclipse the monthly record in the span of just several days. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge.

Hurricane Florence continues to barrel towards the East Coast impacting people and property by late this week.

As of 4 a.m., maximum sustained winds were at 90 miles per hour. The Wilmington area can now expect 9-to-13-foot storm surges if Florence's peak impact coincides with high tide, Brunswick County coastal areas west of Southport can expect 6-to-9-foot surges.

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