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

U.S. and Caribbean brace for arrival of Hurricane Florence

U.S. and Caribbean brace for arrival of Hurricane Florence

Millions are being told to evacuate as the North and SC coasts prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm that continues to strengthen into "an extremely risky major hurricane through Thursday night".

Residents scrambled to flee en masse as the menacing Category 4 storm packing winds of 220 kilometers per hour bore down on the East Coast of the United States.

Several meteorologists said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did past year over Texas, dumping days of rain, although not quite as bad.

The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances", SC governor Henry McMaster said, issuing his state's emergency declaration.

State offices - including the University of SC - and schools also will close in 26 counties in the eastern part of the state Tuesday, McMaster said.

Georgia's governor, Nathan Deal, said: "In light of the storm's forecasted southward track after making landfall, I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas". The decisions were made as Florence appears set to come ashore along the Carolinas' coastline late Thursday or early Friday with strong winds and heavy rain.

AccuWeather meteorologists believe that Florence will reach the Carolina or Virginia coasts and pose a serious threat to lives and property late this week.

The storm is expected to strengthen even further before it makes landfall later this week, and could potentially reach a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 156mph.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation of all eight counties on the coast on Monday, The State newspaper in Columbia reported.

Perhaps the worst-case scenario for flight schedules is if Florence stalls after moving on shore while blocking the busy flight routes along the Atlantic coast. Tuesday morning's forecast still supports this, the National Hurricane Center said.

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"We are not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina", McMaster said. That authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts", the White House said in a statement.

Florence intensified to a Category 4 hurricane Monday, with maximum sustained wind speeds measuring around 140 miles per hour.

Hurricane Helene, heading north in the Atlantic, isn't expected to cause the USA any issues, the NHC said.

"We're talking 12-foot seas stretching 300 miles away from the center", the NHC's Graham said.

U.S. airlines are allowing passengers to change their travel plans as Hurricane Florence threatens the east coast.

Andrew was the last Category 5 hurricane to hit the USA, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

That means the hurricane will be dumping rain over multiple East Coast states, and it's not just a coastal problem.

The National Hurricane Center is offering that warning on Tuesday morning as hurricane watches and storm surge watches were issued for the coasts of North Carolina and SC for the first time. Governors in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have issued mandatory evacuations and lane reversals.

Florence is being trailed in the Atlantic by two other storms - Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac.

Helene - 475 miles west of the Cape Verde islands off the African coast - had winds up to 105 miles per hour, and was expected to continue moving west-northwest for another couple of days, the NHC said.

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