Storm’s path shifts south; FEMA says it’s ready despite money transfer.
‘This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast,’ FEMA declares
An immensely powerful Hurricane Florence roared closer to the East Coast on Wednesday before the storm was forecast to take a dangerous turn south and stall along the edge of North Carolina and South Carolina – bombarding the area with torrential rain, high winds and deadly storm surge Thursday through Saturday.
Hurricane winds could linger for 24 hours or more, sweeping away trees and power lines while dumping 20 to 30 inches of rain in some coastal areas, the National Hurricane Center said. Isolated totals of 40 inches are possible.
The Category 3 storm was driving sustained winds of 125 mph and creating waves up to 83 feet, the hurricane center said. Florence was expected to reach the Carolinas overnight Thursday.
More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas. Duke Energy warned that up to 75 percent of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas could lose power.
“This is not going to be a glancing blow,” Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Jeff Byard said. “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.”
The forecast Tuesday had called for a move north after hitting the coast. The track changed Wednesday.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington said the latest models show Florence reaching a high-pressure ridge over the eastern USA, stalling and then moving toward South Carolina. The office warned that Florence “will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast.”
The southern turn brings Georgia into the path of foul weather, and Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency Wednesday for all 159 counties. But North Carolina remained a primary target, and Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered an unprecedented evacuation of the state’s barrier islands.
Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Postel said Florence has an unusual forecast track. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Ryan Maue, a weather.us meteorologist who said Florence is forecast to dump about 10 trillion gallons of water on the Carolinas, called the forecast “bizarre” and said “the forecast after 72 hours is certainly a challenge ... and a nightmare.”
The new track could make a tremendous difference to residents of the Washington, D.C., metro area and points north. Alan Reppert, a senior meteorologist for AccuWeather, said areas around Richmond, Virginia, could see 8 inches of rain. Washington, 100 miles to the north, might get only an inch.
Nationwide, more than 575 flights have been canceled from Wednesday through Friday, flight-tracking service FlightAware reported.
Amtrak canceled some trains and modified service for others in the region and announced its Northeast Regional service will not run to Virginia destinations south of Washington from Wednesday through Sunday.
Kimberly Johnson works to board the windows and doors of Tommy Condon's Restaurant on Market Street in downtown Charleston, S.C., as residents prepare for Hurricane Florence to make landfall along the East Coast.