Florence takes aim at Caroli­nas

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - WORLD NEWS - JONATHAN DREW and JEF­FREY COLLINS

WILM­ING­TON, N.C. — 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 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 im­per­iled Ge­or­gia, too.

At the White House, U.S. 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.

The shift in the pro­jected track had ar­eas that once thought they were out of range wor­ried. In South Carolina, Beau­fort County Emer­gency Man­age­ment Divi­sion Com­man­der Neil Bax­ley told res­i­dents they need to pre­pare again for the worst just in case.

“We’ve had our lessons. Now it might be time for the exam,” Bax­ley said late in the morn­ing.

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, since 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.

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.”

Florence could strengthen some over open wa­ter and then weaken as it nears land, but the dif­fer­ence won’t make it any less dan­ger­ous, fore­caster Stacy Ste­wart wrote in a Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter dis­cus­sion.

With South Carolina’s beach towns more in the bull’s-eye be­cause of the shift­ing fore­cast, Ohio va­ca­tion­ers Chris and Ni­cole Roland put off their de­par­ture from North Myrtle Beach to get the max­i­mum amount of time on the sand. Most other beach­go­ers were long done.

“It’s been re­ally nice,” Ni­cole Roland said. “Also, a lit­tle creepy. You feel like you should have al­ready left.”

For many of those un­der evac­u­a­tion orders, get­ting out of harm’s way has proved dif­fi­cult, as air­lines can­celled flights and mo­torists had 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.

NOAA VIA GETTY IM­AGES

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

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