BFF-69 US readies for ‘big one” as Hurricane Florence approaches Carolinas

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US-WEATHER-ENVIRONMENT-HURRICANE UPDATE

US readies for ‘big one” as Hurricane Florence approaches Carolinas

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, United States, Sept 12, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – People
fleeing North and South Carolina clogged coastal highways early Wednesday as
Hurricane Florence, a monster Category 4 storm, bore down on the US east
coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation
homes.

President Donald Trump, warning residents to get out of the way, said the
federal government was “ready for the big one that is coming.”

While coastal residents frantically boarded up homes and businesses and hit
the road, others chose to ride out a storm that is forecast to dump up to
three feet (almost a meter) of rain in some areas.

Flash floods and storm surges — in some cases up to 13 feet high — are
expected to send water gushing over miles of vulnerable coastal areas and
river banks further inland.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned that staying put would be a grave
mistake. He urged people to leave immediately rather than face the wrath of
the “once in a lifetime” storm.

Up to 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia
have been given voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, according to
emergency management officials, as the storm churned across the Atlantic
Ocean toward the coast.

The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow
traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with
outward-bound vehicles.

“We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the
evacuation routes,” said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response
and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Forecasters are predicting that Florence will make landfall in the
Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as a slightly weakened but still
dangerous Category 3 hurricane.

As of 8:00 am (1200 GMT), it was packing sustained winds of 130 miles (210
kilometers) per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The eye was about 530 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving
west-northwest at 17 miles per hour.

“Get out of its way, don’t play games with it, it’s a big one, maybe as big
as they’ve seen, and tremendous amounts of water,” Trump said in a video
posted on Twitter.

“We’ll handle it. We’re ready, we’re able, we’ve got the finest people I
think anywhere in the world.”

– ‘Direct hit’ –

FEMA Administrator Brock Long urged people to prepare for a “very
devastating storm,” with possibly weeks-long power outages.

Byard, the FEMA official, said “this storm is not going to be a glancing
blow.”

“This storm is going to be a direct hit,” he added.

“Hurricane Florence is the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this
part of our country in decades.”

Predictions now have the storm stalling and making a slight southward turn
after it makes landfall.

A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Virginia and Washington amid concern over potential torrential rain
and flooding.

In Charleston, South Carolina, streets were quiet with schools and many
offices and businesses closed.

Michael Kennedy, an engineer at Boeing, said he planned to leave for his
parents’ home in Atlanta, Georgia.

But his partner, Emily Whisler, said she will stay at the university where
she is a resident in the psychiatry program.

“They told me to bring a pillow and blanket,” Whisler said. “I’ll be living
there for a few days.”

Charleston resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining
the exodus.

“Been through it!” Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused
widespread damage in South Carolina in 1989. “Not worried in the least.”

Walking his dog along empty streets, Belli said he’s well stocked with food
and water.

“I will enjoy the quiet,” he said.

– Potential for ‘catastrophic damage’ –

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered the mandatory evacuation of
one million coastal residents. Schools in 26 of the state’s 46 counties were
ordered closed.

Authorities in neighboring North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the
Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and
parts of coastal Dare County.

In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate, including
from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront destination.

In neighboring Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said his state was readying
for potentially “historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening
flooding, and high winds.”

By Saturday, total rainfall could accumulate to 30 inches (76 centimeters)
— or even 40 inches in places — in parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, the
NHC said.

The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500
soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state’s response operations.

Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while
1,100 will be activated in South Carolina.

At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed
on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical
Storm Isaac, but neither packs the deadly punch of Florence.

BSS/AFP/ARS/2023 hrs