Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Hurricane Florence weakens to Category 2, still thought risky

S Coastal cities brace for Hurricane Florence S Coastal cities brace for Hurricane Florence
Guillermo Lane | 19 September, 2018, 08:20

Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale on Thursday evening and was moving west at only 6 miles per hour (9 km/h).

Florence will then recurve across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimetres) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimetres).

Forecasters expected some strengthening today, as Florence marches west-north-west at around 13kmh.

In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged them to stay in safer locations despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state.

According to the Steve Pfaff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, areas along the Grand Strand stretching up into North Carolina will feel effects from storm surge, winds and flooding.

While the storm's maximum sustained winds edged lower on Wednesday, those of tropical-storm-force expanded outward, extending 195 miles and putting more people at risk when the storm finally comes ashore, expected near the border separating the Carolinas.

"Precautionary preparations for major flooding are advised", Kottlowski said.

The closure means that people who chose to ride out the storm now officially have no way off the island.

He has issued mandatory evacuations for everyone on North Carolina's Outer Banks, and many coastal residents are already evacuating west. Florence is moving toward the North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia coastline slowly, with torrential rains and winds expected from Thursday through the weekend.

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The White House has approved requests from North Carolina and SC for federal emergency declarations, allowing for greater coordination among states and federal agencies. The more it hovers just off shore, the more potentially deadly storm surge it could push on-shore. Hurricane Helene and Subtropical Storm Joyce were off in the Atlantic, posing no threat. Adding to the storm stress is uncertainty about where exactly Florence will make landfall, after a shift in its track put more of the Southeast in danger. Most storms that reach the coastal United States tend to track farther south, hitting Florida or entering the Gulf of Mexico.

STORM SURGE: The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew", the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, said, stressing the potential for "unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm". The Appalachians could see 3 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated areas of 12 inches.

"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", the NHC said.

Tropical Storm Isaac is also moving westward across the eastern Caribbean.

The slow speed will give Florence time to pound the Carolinas with band after band of heavy rain, causing "catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding".

And yet another tropical storm formed in the Atlantic Thursday night.

Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.

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