HUR­RI­CANE FLORENCE’S SLOW PACE COULD LEAD TO WIDE­SPREAD CHAOS

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

HUR­RI­CANE Florence yes­ter­day in­un­dated coastal streets with ocean wa­ter and left tens of thou­sands with­out power.

Fore­cast­ers said con­di­tions would only worsen as the hulk­ing storm slogs in­land.

Scream­ing winds bent trees to­ward the ground and rain­drops flew side­ways as Florence’s lead­ing edge whipped the Carolina coast Thurs­day (lo­cal time) to be­gin an on­slaught that could last for days, leav­ing a wide area un­der wa­ter from both heavy down­pours and ris­ing seas.

The storm’s in­ten­sity di­min­ished as it neared land, with winds drop­ping to around 144km/h by night­fall. But that, com­bined with the storm’s slow­ing for­ward move­ment and heavy rains, had Gov­er­nor Roy Cooper warn­ing of an im­pend­ing dis­as­ter.

“The worst of the storm is not yet here,” he said. “Sur­viv­ing this storm will be a test of en­durance, team­work, com­mon sense and pa­tience.”

Cooper re­quested ex­tra fed­eral dis­as­ter as­sis­tance in an­tic­i­pa­tion of what his of­fice called “his­toric ma­jor dam­age” across the state.

More than 80,000 people were al­ready with­out power as the storm be­gan to hit. AN 18-YEAR-OLD man has died and at least 12 oth­ers were in­jured after dozens of gas ex­plo­sions – ap­par­ently trig­gered by over-pres­surised gas lines – ig­nited 39 house fires north of Bos­ton.

The vic­tim, Leonel Rob­son of Lawrence, died after be­ing rushed to hospi­tal in Bos­ton when a chim­ney from an ex­plod­ing house crashed on to his car.

Au­thor­i­ties were yes­ter­day scram­bling to shut down gas supply to stop fur­ther ex­plo­sions. Mas­sachusetts State Po­lice were urg­ing all with homes ser­viced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, An­dover and North An­dover to evac­u­ate, snarling traf­fic and caus­ing wide­spread con­fu­sion as res­i­dents and lo­cal of­fi­cials strug­gled to un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing.

“It looked like Ar­maged­don, it re­ally did,” An­dover Fire Chief Michael Mans­field told re­porters.

“There were bil­lows of smoke com­ing from Lawrence be­hind me. I could see pil­lars of smoke in front of me from the town of An­dover.”

Gov­er­nor Char­lie Baker said state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties were in­ves­ti­gat­ing but that it could take days or weeks be­fore they turn up an­swers.

Hours after the ex­plo­sions, the util­ity’s par­ent com­pany is­sued a brief state­ment say­ing its crews were still per­form­ing safety checks in the area.

“Our thoughts are with ev­ery­one affected by to­day’s in­ci­dent,” In­di­ana-based NiSource said on Thurs­day in a state­ment.

“The first pri­or­ity for our crews at the scene is to en­sure the safety of our cus­tomers and the com­mu­nity.”

Baker pre­vi­ously said au­thor­i­ties hadn’t heard di­rectly from Columbia Gas, but later

IT LOOKED LIKE AR­MAGED­DON, IT RE­ALLY DID … THERE WERE BIL­LOWS OF SMOKE

FIRE CHIEF MICHAEL MANS­FIELD

called the com­pany’s re­sponse “ad­e­quate”.

By late Thurs­day, all of the fires had been doused but many ar­eas re­mained silent and dark after res­i­dents fled and after power com­pa­nies cut elec­tric­ity to pre­vent fur­ther fires.

Schools in all three com­mu­ni­ties were can­celled for yes­ter­day, and some schools were be­ing used as shel­ters for res­i­dents. The Mas­sachusetts Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had be­come over­pres­surised but said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were still ex­am­in­ing what hap­pened.

Columbia Gas had an­nounced ear­lier Thurs­day that it would be up­grad­ing gas lines in neigh­bour­hoods across the state, in­clud­ing the area where the ex­plo­sions hap­pened.

Pic­tures: AAP; GETTY IM­AGES/AFP

Aus­tralian cou­ple Lea and An­d­ina Foster, own­ers of South Carolina pub Hem­ing­way's Bistro, will stay open dur­ing the hur­ri­cane with lo­cals hap­pily wad­ing through flood­wa­ter to get a beer; (be­low) storms at Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina; flooded streets in New Bern.

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