Florence pounds Carolina coast

North Bay Nugget - - NATIONAL NEWS - Jonathan Drew

Wilmington, N.C. — the big slosh has be­gun, and the con­se­quences could be dis­as­trous.

hur­ri­cane Florence’s lead­ing edge bat­tered the Carolina coast thurs­day, bend­ing trees and shoot­ing frothy sea water over streets on the outer banks, as the hulk­ing storm closed in with 155 kph winds for a drench­ing siege that could last all week­end. tens of thou­sands were with­out power.

Winds and rain were ar­riv­ing later in South Carolina, and a few peo­ple were still walking on the sand at myr­tle beach while North Carolina was get­ting pounded. heavy rain­fall be­gan af­ter dark.

Fore­cast­ers said con­di­tions will only get more lethal as the storm smashes ashore early Fri­day near the North Carolina- South Carolina line and crawls slowly in­land. its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast un­der as much as 3.4 me­tres of ocean water, and days of down­pours could un­load more than 0.9 me­tres of rain, touch­ing off se­vere flood­ing.

Florence’s winds weak­ened as it drew closer to land, drop­ping from a peak of 225 kph ear­lier in the week, and the hur­ri­cane was down­graded from a ter­ri­fy­ing Cat­e­gory 4 to a 2.

but North Carolina gov. roy Cooper warned: “don’t re­lax, don’t get com­pla­cent. Stay on guard. this is a pow­er­ful storm that can kill. to­day the threat be­comes a re­al­ity.”

more than 80,000 peo­ple were al­ready with­out power as the storm ap­proached, and more than 12,000 were in shel­ters. an­other 400 peo­ple were in shel­ters in Vir­ginia, where fore­casts were less dire.

Fore­cast­ers said that given the storm’s size and slug­gish track, it could cause epic dam­age akin to what the hous­ton area saw dur­ing hur­ri­cane harvey just over a year ago, with flood­wa­ters swamp­ing homes and busi­nesses and wash­ing over in­dus­trial waste sites and hog-ma­nure ponds.

“it truly is re­ally about the whole size of this storm,” Na­tional hur­ri­cane Cen­ter di­rec­tor Ken graham said. “the larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the im­pact — and we have that.”

the hur­ri­cane was seen as a ma­jor test for the Fed­eral emer­gency man­age­ment agency, which was heav­ily crit­i­cized as slug­gish and un­pre­pared for hur­ri­cane maria in puerto rico last year.

as Florence drew near, u.s. pres­i­dent don­ald trump tweeted that Fema and first re­spon­ders are “sup­plied and ready,” and he dis­puted the of­fi­cial con­clu­sion that nearly 3,000 peo­ple died in puerto rico, claim­ing the fig­ure was a demo­cratic plot to make him look bad.

Schools and busi­nesses closed as far south as ge­or­gia, air­lines can­celled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Caroli­nas were largely emp­tied out.

around midday, Span­ish moss blew side­ways in the trees as the winds in­creased in Wilmington, and float­ing docks bounced atop swells at more­head City. Some of the few peo­ple still left in Nags head on the outer banks took photos of an­gry waves topped with white froth.

Wilmington res­i­dent Julie ter­rell was plenty con­cerned af­ter walking to break­fast past a row of shops for­ti­fied with boards, sand­bags and hur­ri­cane shut­ters.

“on a scale of 1 to 10, i’m prob­a­bly a 7” in terms of worry, she said. “be­cause it’s mother Na­ture. you can’t pre­dict.”

Fore­cast­ers’ euro­pean cli­mate model is pre­dict­ing 2 tril­lion to 11 tril­lion gal­lons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, ac­cord­ing to me­te­o­rol­o­gist ryan maue of weath­er­mod­els.com. that’s enough water to fill the em­pire State build­ing nearly 40,000 times.

more than 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple in the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia were warned to evac­u­ate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 mil­lion were un­der watches or warn­ings for the hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm con­di­tions.

home­less af­ter los­ing her job at Wal­mart three months ago, 25-year-old brit­tany Jones went to a storm shel­ter at a high school near raleigh. She said a hur­ri­cane has a way of bring­ing ev­ery­one to the same level.

“it doesn’t mat­ter how much money you have or how many gen­er­a­tors you have if you can’t get gas,” she said. “Whether you have a house or not, when the storm comes it will bring ev­ery­one to­gether. a storm can come and wipe your house out overnight.”

duke en­ergy Co. said Florence could knock out elec­tric­ity to three­quar­ters of its 4 mil­lion cus­tomers in the Caroli­nas, and out­ages could last for weeks. Work­ers are be­ing brought in from the mid­west and Florida to help in the storm’s af­ter­math, it said.

a buoy off the North Carolina coast recorded waves nearly 9 me­tres high as Florence churned to­ward shore.

Sci­en­tists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warm­ing played in the storm. but pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that the strong­est hur­ri­canes are get­ting wet­ter, more in­tense and in­ten­si­fy­ing faster be­cause of hu­man­caused cli­mate change.

Gerry Broome/ap photo

Waves crash un­der the Avalon Fish­ing Pier in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Thurs­day.

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