HURRICANE FLORENCE’S SLOW PACE COULD LEAD TO WIDESPREAD CHAOS
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.
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.