'Life-Threatening\' Hurricane Florence Now Forecast to Bring \'Catastrophic\' Flooding

Hurricanes Florence Isaac and Helene moving through the Atlantic

Hurricanes Florence Isaac and Helene moving through the Atlantic

Motorists streamed inland on highways converted to one-way evacuation routes Tuesday as about 1.7 million people in three states were warned to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a hair-raising storm taking dead aim at the Carolinas with 140 miles per hour (225 kph) winds and potentially ruinous rains.

Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, "is expected to be an extremely unsafe major hurricane through Thursday night" and has triggered a hurricane watch for all of North Carolina and part of SC, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and killed 19 people in North Carolina.

North and SC and Virginia ordered mass evacuations along the coast.

Ahead of the storm, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency declaration that eases regulations for truckers from many states along the East Coast providing storm assistance.

"This increasingly severe, potentially unprecedented storm is hurdling to the epicenter of animal agriculture in North Carolina", said Will Hendrick, a staff attorney and manager for a water campaign in the state for the Waterkeeper Alliance. Even normal water is warm enough for a storm to form there, but this adds to the storm's fuel and its rainfall.

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolina coast, experts are warning of its potentially disastrous effects. But more than 10 inches is forecast for a larger area, including most of eastern North Carolina inland to just north of Richmond, Virginia. While it may or may not officially become a Category 5 storm, it will still be a major Hurricane at landfall.

The hurricane watch notice is significant because it signals the opening of a 48-hour window for the expected first arrival of tropical storm-force winds.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the storm is expected to regain strength Tuesday and "is expected to be an extremely risky major hurricane through landfall".

The exact track, overall size and forward speed of the storm will determine which locations along the coast receive the worst of Florence's damaging winds, heavy rain and storm surge flooding. The storm is predicted to cause massive damage with life-threatening storm surge and flooding.

"We're in for a real episode here", the governor said.

Based on the current forecast, Florence could cause storm surges of 3 to 6 feet above ground level in areas along the coast and near the Albemarle Sound, the center said.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for more than 1 million people in coastal areas of the Carolinas and Virginia. "North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously and you should too".

Announcing his evacuation order, SC governor Henry McMaster said an estimated one million people would be fleeing the coast. US President Donald Trump signed declarations of emergency for both North Carolina and SC, freeing up federal money and resources for storm response. He said the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence. Florence's storm surge threatens more than 750,000 homes in the region, according to the property analytics firm CoreLogic.

United States Coast Guard officials also ordered commercial vessels and pleasure craft to take precautions. Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land.

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