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

Stare Down from Space into the Churning Maw of Hurricane Florence

Stare Down from Space into the Churning Maw of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm, but don't be fooled, it's still incredibly unsafe.

Calling the storm surge prediction "incredible", Graham said that because Florence will likely nudge its way onto the coast, giving its hurricane winds lots of time to force water inland, he wouldn't be surprised "to see storm surge a mile, a mile and a half inland - maybe even 2 miles or more, in some cases". The forecast track has the storm moving slowly along the coast throughout Friday and into Saturday.

For a Category 2 storm, that means sustained winds of 154-177 km/h (96-110 mph).

Terrifying as the situation is (I am regularly checking on my folks, who abandoned Charleston for the highlands of North Carolina), there is a silver lining.

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves". This storm surge can be deadly and then the flooding that will come thereafter with rain being measured in feet instead of inches.

"You are taking the ocean and raising it", said storm surge expert Hal Needham, director of Marine Weather and Climate in Miami.

The storm looked likely to make landfall on the coast of North and SC but heavy rain was also expected in Virginia to the north and Georgia to the south.

Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely risky storm for rain and storm surge. Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to approach the Lesser Antilles Islands on Thursday.

Federal emergency management officials warned that Florence - while weakening a bit - remains a "very unsafe storm" capable of wreaking havoc along a wide swathe of the East Coast.

Even if you know nothing about hurricanes, an unavoidable sense of doom and destruction overtakes you when you look at this image of Hurricane Florence as it moves inexorably toward North and SC. "We're still going to have a Category 4 storm surge", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

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As of 5pm, the storm was centred 385 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16mph.

But despite the drop in wind strength, the most unsafe threat comes from Florence's rains and storm surge, which could bring flooding far inland.

"When combined with sea level rises and increased storm surges, an increasingly large number of properties face greater risk than exists now".

Duke has said it could take several weeks to fully restore power in areas that are inaccessible due to flooding.

Jeff Byard of the Federal Emergency Management Agency invoked a former boxing champion to warn residents that Florence would bring "a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast".

By the time the storm leaves the region, forecasters expect that it will have dumped 50 to 70 centimeters of rain in coastal areas, with some parts possibly being inundated with up to 100 centimeters. The forecasters say the slow speed will give Florence time to pound the Carolinas with bands of heavy rain.

"This is a life-threatening situation".

It's incredibly hard to pin down a storm's precise death toll because of the myriad, chaotic factors that accompany a natural disaster.

Not everybody was heeding orders to evacuate, however. "But can't replace us, so we chose to come here", said the 39-year-old.

That was a bad idea, said Avair Vereen, a local nurse who had sought safety in the shelter with her seven children.

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