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