❚ More than 1 mil­lion peo­ple flee the an­tic­i­pated dev­as­ta­tion ❚ States of emer­gency in the Caroli­nas, Vir­ginia, Mary­land, D.C. ❚ Rain may shat­ter state records from a hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doyle Rice

Al­though the fo­cus on where Hur­ri­cane Florence makes land­fall is draw­ing lots of at­ten­tion, an­other loom­ing threat could be the worst im­pact of this mon­ster storm: dis­as­trous, deadly flood­ing from days of re­lent­less rain.

With “mon­u­men­tal” rain­fall to­tals of up to 40 inches pos­si­ble, “the rain from Florence may break all-time state records for rain­fall from a hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm,” Weather Un­der­ground me­te­o­rol­o­gist Jeff Masters said. It could po­ten­tially be­come the “Har­vey of the East Coast.”

Al­though the storm’s winds will likely di­min­ish rapidly af­ter mak­ing land­fall as a Cat­e­gory 3 or 4 storm, the heavy rain will per­sist as it stalls over por­tions of North Carolina and Vir­ginia.

On Tues­day, more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple were evac­u­at­ing the dan­ger zones in the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia. The first rain bands could reach the area Wed­nes­day, fore­cast­ers said, and hur­ri­cane-force winds could hit the main­land by Thurs-

day evening. North Carolina was the most likely tar­get for land­fall. Still, states of emer­gency were also de­clared in South Carolina, Vir­ginia, Mary­land and Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“All in­di­ca­tions are that the storm will slow down and just crawl or me­an­der over the in­land sec­tions and the coastal Pied­mont,” Weather Chan­nel hur­ri­cane ex­pert Bryan Nor­cross said. “We don’t know ex­actly where the cen­ter will go, but it’s not re­ally rel­e­vant. It’s more like a (Hur­ri­cane) Har­vey sit­u­a­tion, where it’ll just slowly wind down.”

Last year, Har­vey made land­fall north of Cor­pus Christi, Texas, then stalled over the Hous­ton area, drop­ping as much as 5 feet of rain across the metro area.

“It will be worse than a Har­vey in the sense that the ter­rain is not like Hous­ton, which is flat. If you put 2, 3, 4 feet of rain over flat ground, you have a cer­tain kind of prob­lem.

“But if you put a foot or 2 – or maybe in some iso­lated places more – of rain over hills and moun­tains, you have a very dif­fer­ent kind of prob­lem, which is more dan­ger­ous,” Nor­cross said.

Sev­eral spots in the mid-At­lantic and North­east had one of their wettest sum­mers on record, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion. This in­cludes cities in the path of Florence such as Wilm­ing­ton and Cape Hat­teras in North Carolina and Nor­folk, Vir­ginia.

“Pre­pare NOW to evac­u­ate you and your fam­ily,” Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia me­te­o­rol­o­gist Mar­shall Shep­herd tweeted Mon­day. “If you are given an evac­u­a­tion or­der, please com­ply im­me­di­ately be­fore roads get clogged and chaos com­mences.”

“It will be worse than a Har­vey in the sense that the ter­rain is not like Hous­ton, which is flat.” Bryan Nor­cross Weather Chan­nel hur­ri­cane ex­pert


Angie Travis and her hus­band, Jeff, cover the windows of their va­ca­tion home Tues­day in North Myr­tle Beach, S.C., as Hur­ri­cane Florence ad­vances on the East Coast.

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