Build­ings rav­aged as US hur­ri­cane wreaks havoc

Western Mail - - UK & WORLD NEWS - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS RE­PORTERS news­desk@waleson­

HUR­RI­CANE Florence is “wreak­ing havoc” along the US coast and could wipe out en­tire com­mu­ni­ties, North Carolina’s gov­er­nor has warned.

Build­ings were torn apart by 90mph winds, and hun­dreds of peo­ple were trapped by high wa­ter as the Cat­e­gory 1 storm set­tled in for what could be an ex­traor­di­nar­ily de­struc­tive drench­ing.

Gov­er­nor Roy Cooper called the rain­fall an event that comes along only once ev­ery 1,000 years.

“Hur­ri­cane Florence is pow­er­ful, slow and re­lent­less,” he said. “It’s an un­in­vited brute who doesn’t want to leave.”

The cen­tre of the hur­ri­cane made land­fall near Wrightsville, North Carolina, at 7.15am local time.

Its storm surge and the prospect of 1-3ft of rain were con­sid­ered a big­ger threat than its winds, which had dropped off from an alarm­ing 140mph ear­lier in the week.

Fore­cast­ers said cat­a­strophic fresh­wa­ter flood­ing is ex­pected well in­land over the next few days as Florence crawls west­ward across the Caroli­nas all week­end.

The area is ex­pected to get about as much rain in three days as Hur­ri­canes Den­nis and Floyd dropped in two weeks in 1999.

Pre­par­ing for the worst, about 9,700 Na­tional Guard troops and civil­ians were de­ployed with high­wa­ter ve­hi­cles, he­li­copters and boats that could be used to pluck peo­ple from the flood­wa­ters.

For peo­ple liv­ing in­land in the Caroli­nas, the mo­ment of max­i­mum peril from flash flood­ing could ar­rive days later, be­cause it takes time for rain­wa­ter to drain into rivers.

Author­i­ties warned too of the threat of mud­slides and the risk of en­vi­ron­men­tal havoc from flood­wa­ters wash­ing over in­dus­trial waste sites and pig farms.

Florence was seen as a ma­jor test for the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, which was heav­ily crit­i­cised as slow and un­pre­pared last year for Hur­ri­cane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the storm was blamed for nearly 3,000 deaths.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­tre said Florence will even­tu­ally make a right turn to the north-east over the southern Ap­palachi­ans, mov­ing into the mid-At­lantic states and New Eng­land as a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion by the mid­dle of next week.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ryan Maue, of weath­er­mod­, cal­cu­lated that 34 mil­lion peo­ple in the US could get at least 3in of rain from Florence, with more than 5.7 mil­lion peo­ple prob­a­bly re­ceiv­ing at least 1ft.

Florence is ex­pected to dump about 18 tril­lion gal­lons of rain over a week along its en­tire path, enough wa­ter to fill more than 65,000 Em­pire State Build­ings, Mr Maue cal­cu­lated.

Yes­ter­day coastal streets in the Caroli­nas flowed with frothy ocean wa­ter, and pieces of torn-apart build­ings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilm­ing­ton had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal de­bris and power lines.

The Wilm­ing­ton air­port had a wind gust clocked at 105mph, the high­est since Hur­ri­cane He­lene in 1958, the weather ser­vice said.

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