Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Florence's 'violent grind' leaves at least four dead in Carolinas

Florence's 'violent grind' leaves at least four dead in Carolinas

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast, is it time for a radical rethink on what it means to be prepared?

Forecasters say Florence is now a tropical storm but will continue to threaten North and SC with powerful winds and catastrophic freshwater flooding.

Landfall is expected late Thursday or early Friday, and the National Hurricane Center fears the storm "will slow considerably or stall, leading to a prolonged and exceptionally heavy and unsafe rainfall event Friday-Sunday".

Boarding up his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Chris Pennington watched the forecasts and tried to decide when to leave.

The center of Florence, no longer classified as a major hurricane but still posing a grave threat to life and property, is expected to strike North Carolina's southern coast on Friday, then drift southwest along the shoreline before moving inland on Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.

Water from the Neuse river floods the streets during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018.

A hurricane warning - meaning hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours - is in effect for a long stretch of the coast, from the Santee River in SC to Duck, N.C., which is part of the Outer Banks. "Now it might be time for the exam", he said.

If some of the computer projections hold, "it's going to come roaring up to the coast Thursday night and say, 'I'm not sure I really want to do this, and I'll just take a tour of the coast and decide where I want to go inland, '" said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground forecasting service.

The storm's first casualties included a mother and her baby, who died when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina. By late Wednesday, authorities in North Carolina reported almost 7,000 evacuees staying in 71 emergency shelters throughout the state.

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In Wilmington, the fire department is urging people to prepare for at least seven days of hardship, collecting water and nonperishable foods.

Satellite images show the storm has maintained a distinct eye and is well organized.

Florence could strengthen some over open water and then weaken as it nears land, but the difference won't make it any less unsafe, forecaster Stacy Stewart wrote in a National Hurricane Center discussion.

Right now, it is looking more likely that Florence will stall VERY close to shore Thursday evening, delaying a technical landfall of the eye/center to sometime Friday or even early Saturday.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from its center.

The slow movement, combined with the massive amount of moisture this storm holds, will bring risky rains - from 20 to 30 inches in coastal North Carolina, with 40 inches possible in isolated areas, the weather service says. And Florence remained capable of unleashing rain-fueled catastrophic flooding of rivers and low-lying areas across a wide region.

The shift in the projected track had areas that once thought they were out of range anxious. Residents in some parts of the Carolinas have been ordered to evacuate. "And we had no belief it would be as significant an event as it was", he said.

To back up that point, Graham cited a sobering statistic: "50 percent of the fatalities in these tropical systems is the storm surge - and that's not just along the coast". GEMA/HS continues to lead our preparedness efforts as we coordinate with federal, state and local officials to provide public shelter and accommodate those evacuating from other states.

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