Florence’s un­cer­tain track sows fear

Hurricane to make land­fall on Satur­day

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Jonathan Drew anD Jef­frey Collins

• Peo­ple who thought they were rel­a­tively safe from the on­slaught of Hurricane Florence be­gan board­ing up and Ge­or­gia’s gov­er­nor de­clared a state of emer­gency Wed­nes­day as un­cer­tainty over the path of the mon­ster storm spread worry along the South­east­ern U.S. coast.

Clos­ing in with ter­ri­fy­ing winds of 205 km/h and po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic rain and storm surge, Florence is ex­pected to blow ashore Satur­day morn­ing along the North Carolina-South Carolina line, the Na­tional Hurricane Cen­ter said.

While some of the com­puter fore­cast­ing mod­els con­flicted, the lat­est pro­jec­tions more or less showed the storm shift­ing south­ward and west­ward in a way that sud­denly put more of South Carolina in dan­ger and im­per­illed Ge­or­gia, too.

“This is a hor­rific night­mare storm from a me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal per­spec­tive,” Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia me­te­o­rol­ogy pro­fes­sor Mar­shall Shep­herd said. “We’ve just never seen any­thing like this . ... This is just a strange bird.”

At the White House, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump urged peo­ple to “get out of its way.”

“Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one,” he said.

With the change in the fore­cast, Ge­or­gia Gov. Nathan Deal is­sued an emer­gency declaration for the en­tire state to ease reg­u­la­tions on trucks haul­ing gaso­line and re­lief sup­plies, and asked peo­ple to pray for those in Florence’s path. North and South Carolina and Vir­ginia de­clared emer­gen­cies ear­lier in the week.

As of 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day, the Cat­e­gory 3 storm was cen­tred 700 kilo­me­tres south­east of the port city of Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., mov­ing at 26 km/h, with the po­ten­tial for 0.3 to al­most a me­tre of rain in places — enough to touch off cat­a­strophic flood­ing in­land.

The hurricane cen­tre’s pro­jected track had Florence hov­er­ing off the south­ern North Carolina coast start­ing Thurs­day night be­fore fi­nally blow­ing ashore. That could pun­ish a longer stretch of coast­line, and for a longer pe­riod of time than pre­vi­ously thought.

The trend is “ex­cep­tion­ally bad news,” said Univer­sity of Mi­ami hurricane re­searcher Brian McNoldy, be­cause it “smears a land­fall out over hun­dreds of miles of coast­line, most no­tably the storm surge.”

If some of the com­puter pro­jec­tions hold, “it’s go­ing to come roar­ing up to the coast Thurs­day night and say, ‘I’m not sure I re­ally want to do this, and I’ll just take a tour of the coast and de­cide where I want to go in­land,”’ said Jeff Masters, me­te­o­rol­ogy direc­tor of the pri­vate Weather Un­der­ground fore­cast­ing ser­vice.

As of Tues­day, about 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple in North and South Carolina and Vir­ginia were un­der warn­ings to evac­u­ate the coast, and hurricane watches and warn­ings ex­tended across an area with about 5.4 mil­lion res­i­dents. Cars and trucks full of peo­ple and be­long­ings streamed in­land.

“This is not go­ing to be a glanc­ing blow,” warned Jeff Byard, an ad­min­is­tra­tor with the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency. “This is go­ing to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”

Duke En­ergy, the coun­try’s No. 2 power com­pany, said Wed­nes­day that dam­age from the hurricane could cut off elec­tric­ity to three­quar­ters of its four mil­lion cus­tomers in the Caroli­nas, and the out­ages could last for weeks.

For many of un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders, get­ting out of harm’s way has proved dif­fi­cult, as air­lines can­cel flights and mo­torists have a hard time find­ing gas.

Michelle Sto­ber loaded up valu­ables at her home on Wrightsville Beach to drive back to her pri­mary res­i­dence in Cary, N.C.

“This morn­ing I drove around for an hour look­ing for gas in Cary. Ev­ery­one was sold out,” she said.

On the coast in Wilm­ing­ton, peo­ple were wait­ing in line for an hour or more at a Home De­pot store to get lum­ber to board up their homes.

Mickey and Diane Manes were load­ing a half-dozen long ply­wood boards into their pickup. “We’ve been through about three hur­ri­canes and we never boarded up the win­dows, but this time we are,” he said.

Trump said yes­ter­day that the U.S. gov­ern­ment is ready for Florence, but his as­ser­tion that the fed­eral re­sponse to Hurricane Maria last Septem­ber was “an in­cred­i­ble, un­sung suc­cess” fell flat in Puerto Rico, where is­landers are still strug­gling to re­cover.

An es­ti­mated 2,975 peo­ple died in the storm’s af­ter­math when med­i­cal re­sources were strained be­yond the break­ing point, and for many, Trump’s boast was hard to square with their daily re­al­ity.

San Juan Mayor Car­men Yulin Cruz tweeted that if Trump “thinks the death of 3,000 peo­ple (is) a suc­cess God help us all.”

THIS IS GO­ING TO BE A MIKE TYSON PUNCH TOTHE CAROLINA COAST.

NOAA VIA GETTY IMAGES

In this satel­lite im­age pro­vided by the U.S. Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Hurricane Florence churns through the At­lantic Ocean to­ward the U.S. East Coast on Wed­nes­day.

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