U.S. East Coast braces for hur­ri­cane

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Jonathan Drew

•Morethan a mil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to evac­u­ate the South Carolina and Vir­gina coasts af­ter Florence ex­ploded into a po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane Mon­day.

The hur­ri­cane, car­ry­ing winds of 210 km/h, is due to hit North and South Carolina on Thurs­day and wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States.

The South Carolina gov­er­nor or­dered the state’s en­tire coast­line to be evac­u­ated start­ing at noon Tues­day.

In an­nounc­ing his evac­u­a­tion or­der, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said an es­ti­mated one mil­lion peo­ple would be flee­ing the coast.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state was “in the bull’s-eye” of the storm and urged peo­ple to “get ready now.”

Vir­ginia’s gov­er­nor also or­dered a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion that would af­fect al­most 250,000 res­i­dents.

The storm’s first ef­fects were al­ready be­ing seen on bar­rier is­lands as dan­ger­ous rip cur­rents hit beaches and sea­wa­ter flowed over a state high­way.

For many peo­ple, the chal­lenge could be find­ing a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring tor­ren­tial rains to the Ap­palachian Moun­tains and as far away as West Vir­ginia, caus­ing flash floods, mud­slides and other dan­ger­ous con­di­tions.

The storm’s po­ten­tial path also in­cludes half a dozen nu­clear power plants, pits hold­ing coal-ash and other in­dus­trial waste, and nu­mer­ous eastern hog farms that store an­i­mal waste in mas­sive open-air la­goons.

Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Di­rec­tor Ken Gra­ham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Caroli­nas once it reaches shore. Peo­ple liv­ing well in­land should pre­pare to lose power and en­dure flood­ing and other hazards, he warned.

“It’s not just the coast,” Gra­ham said. “When you stall a sys­tem like this and it moves real slow, some of that rain­fall can ex­tend well away from the cen­tre.”

A warm ocean is the fuel that pow­ers hur­ri­canes, and Florence will be mov­ing over wa­ters where tem­per­a­tures are peak­ing near 30 C, hur­ri­cane spe­cial­ist Eric Blake wrote. And with lit­tle wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence’s hur­ri­cane wind field was ex­pected to ex­pand over the com­ing days, in­creas­ing its storm surge and in­land wind threats.

Mean­while, two other storms were also spin­ning in the At­lantic. Hur­ri­cane Isaac was ex­pected to lose strength as it reaches the Caribbean, and He­lene, much far­ther out to sea, may veer north­ward into the open ocean as the 2018 hur­ri­cane sea­son reaches its peak.

Sev­eral me­te­o­rol­o­gists said Florence could do what Hur­ri­cane Har­vey did last year over Texas, dump­ing days of rain, although not quite as bad.

“I think this is very Har­vey-es­que,” said Univer­sity of Mi­ami hur­ri­cane ex­pert Brian McNoldy.

NASA VIA AP

Hur­ri­cane Florence is seen on Mon­day from the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, as it bar­rels to­ward the U.S. East Coast.

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