Strength­en­ing hur­ri­cane takes aim at South­east

Manteca Bulletin - - Local -

CHARLESTON, S. C. (AP) — A rapidly strength­en­ing Hur­ri­cane Florence churned across the At­lantic on Sun­day to­ward a pos­si­ble di­rect hit on the U.S. South­east late this week, trig­ger­ing warn­ings to peo­ple up and down the coast to get their emer­gency kits ready, map out es­cape routes and fill sand­bags.

Red flags fly­ing on beaches warned swim­mers to stay out of wa­ters al­ready roiled by the dis­tant storm, and cruise ships and Navy ves­sels were set to be steered out of harm’s way. Peo­ple rushed to buy bot­tled wa­ter, ply­wood and other sup­plies.

Florence crossed the 74 mph thresh­old from trop­i­cal storm to hur­ri­cane Sun­day morn­ing, and by evening its winds were up to 85 mph (140 kph) as the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter warned it was ex­pected to be­come an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous ma­jor hur­ri­cane by Mon­day and re­main that way for days.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, Florence was cen­tered about 720 miles ( 1,160 kilo­me­ters) south­east of Ber­muda, mov­ing west at 7 mph (11 kmh). Draw­ing en­ergy from the warm wa­ter, it could be a fear­some Cat­e­gory 4 with winds of 130 mph (209 kph) or more by Tues­day, the Mi­ami-based cen­ter said.

Fore­cast­ers said it is too early to know the ex­act path the storm will take but warned that it could roll ashore in the Caroli­nas by Thurs­day.

Fore­cast­ers urged res­i­dents from South Carolina to the mid-At­lantic to get ready — and not just for a pos­si­ble di­rect blow against the coast. They warned that Florence could slow or stall af­ter com­ing ashore, with some fore­cast­ing mod­els show­ing it could un­load a foot or two of rain in places, caus­ing dev­as­tat­ing in­land flood­ing. Fore­cast­ers also warned that the threat of a life-threat­en­ing storm surge was ris­ing.

“Pre­tend, as­sume, pre­sume that a ma­jor hur­ri­cane is go­ing to hit right smack dab in the mid­dle of South Carolina and is go­ing to go way in­shore,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The state’s emer­gency man­age­ment agency said it is “pre­par­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of a large-scale dis­as­ter.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, along the coast, city of­fi­cials of­fered sand­bags to res­i­dents. Myr­tle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune urged peo­ple to se­cure their homes but said it’s too early to know if evac­u­a­tions will be or­dered.

Myr­tle Beach hard­ware stores and su­per­mar­kets were busy ring­ing up sales of bot­tled wa­ter, ply­wood and gen­er­a­tors.

“Lit­er­ally, they are fill­ing bug­gies full of wa­ter, shop­ping carts full of wa­ter,” Ryan Deeck, gro­cery depart­ment man­ager at a Wal­mart, told The Sun News. “They’re com­ing in and buy­ing wa­ter and plates, and that’s about all they’re buy­ing.”

North Carolina of­fi­cials started get­ting bull­doz­ers and chain saws ready.

Across the South­east, peo­ple were urged to put to­gether emer­gency sup­ply kits, pre­pare their homes and re­search evac­u­a­tion routes. The gover­nors of North and South Carolina and Vir­ginia de­clared states of emer­gency far ahead of the storm to get ready.

Florence’s ef­fects were al­ready be­ing felt along the coast, with dan­ger­ous swells and rip cur­rents in some spots. On North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the town of Nags Head posted no-swim­ming flags on beaches.

In Jack­sonville, North Carolina, about 20 miles ( 32 kilo­me­ters) from the coast, some res­i­dents picked up hur­ri­cane sup­plies dur­ing their nor­mal week­end shop­ping, The Daily News re­ported. Ilija Ce­sal told the news­pa­per he wouldn’t worry about buy­ing ex­tra wa­ter or other sup­plies for a few more days.

“I’ll see by Wed­nes­day how that goes — we got over 48 hours be­fore that hap­pens,” Ce­sal said.

In south­east Vir­ginia, Naval Sta­tion Nor­folk told its em­ploy­ees they should not leave their ve­hi­cles parked at the sprawl­ing base in com­ing days be­cause of the flood threat. The sta­tion, the largest naval com­plex in the world, said in a Face­book post that much of the base is prone to heavy flood­ing, es­pe­cially the park­ing lots ad­ja­cent to the wa­ter­front.

The Navy planned to send ships from the Hamp­ton Roads area of Vir­ginia out to sea. Florida-based Car­ni­val Cruise Line re-routed its cruise ships.

As Hur­ri­cane Florence ap­proaches the East Coast, the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Wilm­ing­ton en­cour­aged its stu­dents to leave cam­pus for a safer lo­ca­tion. The univer­sity said Sun­day that it has is­sued a vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion for stu­dents start­ing at mid­day Mon­day, not­ing classes would be can­celed.

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