Hurricane Florence Could Strike East Coast This Week; Carolinas, Virginia Declare Emergencies

Ignacio Smith
September 11, 2018

Florence intensified into a hurricane on Sunday and was expected to strengthen rapidly into a major threat later this week as it churned across the mid-Atlantic with winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour with possible landfall on the U.S. East Coast at the end of the week.

"On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of SC or North Carolina on Thursday".

Florence is not now expected to impact metro Atlanta, as the storm is now forecast to remain northeast of the area.

Officials along North Carolina's coast are issuing a mandatory evacuation order for all visitors and residents on Hatteras Island as Hurricane Florence moves closer to the East Coast.

At 4:00 am, the centre of Florence was located 1235 km southeast of Bermuda, while the outer bands of Helen were moving across the Southernmost Cabo Verde Islands.

Hurricane-force winds could buffet the Carolinas by Wednesday night with landfall likely in SC and North Carolina on Thursday, followed by heavy rains that could cause flooding in much of the U.S. Southeast, the NHC said.

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More than 3.9 million homes that would cost more than a $1 trillion to rebuild are at risk from hurricanes on the U.S. Atlantic coast from ME to Florida, according to CoreLogic, a property analytics firm in Irvine, California. Storm surge and freshwater flooding from rainfall could become life-threatening risks, especially from SC through the mid-Atlantic.

Earlier Sunday Florence regained its hurricane status and rapid strengthening from here is expected since the storm is encountering less wind shear and warm waters.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades", and warned of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages".

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

Models have come into agreement that a northward turn before reaching the United States is unlikely and that a building high-pressure zone north of the storm will cause it to slow or stall once it reaches the coast or shortly thereafter. In those coastal areas, heavy surf and elevated water levels are expected to arrive by Wednesday morning, and rainfall could begin by Thursday morning. It is now 1,305 miles east of the Windward Islands, which are in the West Indies, and moving westward at 14 mph.

Authorities anxious about the storm's potential to unleash prolonged torrential rains and widespread flooding across several states, especially if it lingers inland for several days.

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That's because Florence will reach areas that have already experienced a lot of rain in recent weeks - and it won't take much for flash floods to start in these regions. The storm was moving west at 13 miles per hour (20 kmh).

Hurricane Isaac - which late Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season - is heading west towards the Caribbean.

Each line represents a computer model's best "guess" of where the center of the storm will go.

Isaac is moving toward the west near 14 miles per hour.

On the forecast track, Isaac should move across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea on Thursday. Florence has been moving more toward the west and slightly northwest, potentially making direct landfall coming in from the east. According to aircraft data, its maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour. Weakening is forecast to begin by the middle of the week.

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