For meteorologists, Florence 'is a horrific nightmare storm'

Cesar Mills
September 13, 2018

State officials and the National Weather Service warned the storm's weakening only relates to wind speed, not surges or flooding.

Once the rain hits the coast, it will accumulate very quickly, causing some flash flooding and eventually likely overwhelming streams and rivers in the areas that get the most.

But the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that the storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to the Carolinas as it approaches the coast Thursday and Friday.

Typically, hurricanes moving toward the USA would curve northward, missing the mainland as they move around a high-pressure system of winds. Three college football games with Top 25 teams have been called off: East Carolina at No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 15 West Virginia at NC State and No. 18 Central Florida at North Carolina.

People in areas vulnerable to the unsafe hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.

The threat has sparked a rush of evacuation efforts in SC and North Carolina, with more than 1 million people urged to get out of Florence's way.

Forecast models predict Florence's center may slow to a crawl just off North Carolina early Friday and make a southwesterly turn - punishing the coast while moving perhaps only 2 to 3 miles per hour.

Cooper and his SC counterpart, Henry McMaster, told the more than 1 million people who have been told to leave that if they don't, they are on their own. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the federal level Tuesday for the Carolinas and Virginia.

Some bars pride themselves on staying open no matter how strong the winds and rains outside, but Florence - expected to be the most powerful hurricane in decades - is proving just too risky.

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Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds now extend up to 195 miles from the center of the storm.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort. Because the storm was so strong earlier in the week, it built up a wall of water which will push inland as the storm surge.

The impact of storm surge on the coast will depend on whether the storm's arrival coincides with high tide. However, the surge is expected to be accompanied by large and destructive waves, regardless of when the storm arrives.

Analysts expect a temporary boost in gasoline demand as people flee Florence, followed by weaker demand during and immediately after the storm.

The U.S. Naval Forces North Command also has deployed ships off the S.C. coast once the storm passes for recovery and rescue efforts, should support be needed, said Lt. Cmdr.

Nevertheless, torrential rain will be moving ashore Thursday, continuing into Friday, and dumping one or perhaps even two feet of rain in some areas.

Any "flooding will be worse around high tide, and a slow-moving storm will stick around for at least one tide cycle", explained McNoldy. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands face possible isolated amounts of 3 inches. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 centimeters) of rain in North Carolina, with spots up to 40 inches (100 centimeters). A third high-pressure system over the central USA pushed the cyclone south and could contribute to its stalling, which could result in a situation similar to what happened in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey hovered over Houston and devastated it with massive rains and flooding.

At the same time, warmer air can hold more moisture and that means more intense rainfall as the storm moves inland.

Other reports by GizPress

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