North Carolina braces for full-force Florence

Lethal hur­ri­cane hits the Carolina coast, driv­ing high winds, flood­ing in­land

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - JONATHAN DREW

WILM­ING­TON, N.C. — The big slosh has be­gun, and the con­se­quences could be dis­as­trous.

Hur­ri­cane Florence’s lead­ing edge bat­tered the Carolina coast Thurs­day, bend­ing trees and shoot­ing frothy sea wa­ter over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulk­ing storm closed in with 100 mph (155 km/h) winds for a drench­ing siege that could last all week­end. Tens of thou­sands were with­out power.

Winds and rain were ar­riv­ing later in South Carolina, and a few peo­ple were still walk­ing on the sand at Myrtle Beach while

North Carolina was get­ting pounded.

Fore­cast­ers said con­di­tions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Fri­day near the North Caroli­naSouth Carolina line and makes its way slowly in­land. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast un­der as much as 11 feet (3.4 me­tres) of ocean wa­ter, and days of down­pours could un­load more than 3 feet (0.9 me­tres) of rain, touch­ing off se­vere flood­ing.

Florence’s winds weak­ened as it drew closer to land, drop­ping from a peak of 140 mph (225 km/ h) ear­lier in the week, and the hur­ri­cane was down­graded from a ter­ri­fy­ing Cat­e­gory 4 to a 2.

But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: “Don’t re­lax, don’t get com­pla­cent. Stay on guard. This is a pow­er­ful storm that can kill. To­day the threat be­comes a re­al­ity.”

Al­most 30,000 peo­ple were al­ready with­out power as the storm ap­proached, he said, and more than 12,000 were in shel­ters. An­other 400 peo­ple were in shel­ters in Vir­ginia, where fore­casts were less dire.

Fore­cast­ers said that given the storm’s size and slug­gish track, it could cause epic dam­age akin to what the Houston area saw dur­ing hur­ri­cane Har­vey just over a year ago, with flood wa­ters swamp­ing homes and busi­nesses and washing over in­dus­trial waste sites and hog-ma­nure ponds.

“It truly is re­ally about the whole size of this storm,” Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Di­rec­tor Ken Gra­ham said. “The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the im­pact — and we have that.”

The hur­ri­cane was seen as a ma­jor test for the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, which was heav­ily crit­i­cized as slug­gish and un­pre­pared for hur­ri­cane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.

As Florence drew near, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted that FEMA and first re­spon­ders are “sup­plied and ready,” and he dis­puted the of­fi­cial con­clu­sion that nearly 3,000 peo­ple died in Puerto Rico, claim­ing the fig­ure was a Demo­cratic plot to make him look bad.

Schools and busi­nesses closed as far south as Ge­or­gia, air­lines can­celled more than 1,500 flights, and coastal towns in the Caroli­nas were largely emp­tied out.

Around mid­day, Span­ish moss blew side­ways in the trees as the winds in­creased in Wilm­ing­ton, and float­ing docks bounced atop swells at More­head City. Some of the few peo­ple still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took pho­tos of an­gry waves topped with white froth.

Wilm­ing­ton res­i­dent Julie Ter­rell was plenty con­cerned af­ter walk­ing to break­fast past a row of shops for­ti­fied with boards, sand­bags and hur­ri­cane shut­ters.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m prob­a­bly a 7” in terms of worry, she said. “Be­cause it’s Mother Na­ture. You can’t pre­dict.”

Fore­cast­ers’ Euro­pean cli­mate model is pre­dict­ing 2 tril­lion to 11 tril­lion gal­lons of rain will fall on North Carolina over the next week, ac­cord­ing to me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ryan Maue of weath­er­mod­

More than 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple in the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia were warned to evac­u­ate over the past few days.


Danny Donathan loads sand­bags onto a trailer in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C. The first rains of Hur­ri­cane Florence were lash­ing the state on Thurs­day, driv­ing a storm surge that could reach 13 feet (4 me­tres) in places.

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