Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Science | By

Hurricane Florence pounds the Carolinas as it nears landfall

Hurricane Florence pounds the Carolinas as it nears landfall

Tens of thousands were without power.

North Carolina corrections officials said more than 3,000 people were relocated from adult prisons and juvenile centers in the path of Florence, and more than 300 county prisoners were transferred to state facilities.

"This storm will bring destruction", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. Then it is likely to hover along the coast on Saturday, pushing up to 13ft of storm surge.

Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm, but don't be fooled, it's still incredibly unsafe.

That makes sense since the category of a storm is generally determined by its maximum sustained winds; but, researchers have found, the vast majority of deaths (nearly 90%) from hurricanes, tropical storms, or tropical depressions between 1963 and 2012 were attributable to "storm surge, rainfall flooding, high surf, and deaths just offshore".

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference that the "historic" hurricane would unleash rains and floods that would inundate nearly the entire state in several feet of water. "Today the threat becomes a reality", he said.

Cooper said 108 shelters are open across the state, with more than 7,000 people already staying at them, as of Thursday afternoon. The Virginia National Guard has 1,200 personnel ready to respond for missions including high water transportation, debris reduction, commodity distribution, shelter management assistance and search and rescue.

The East Coast isn't the only area facing the brunt of a storm.

Ken Graham, director of the hurricane center, said on Facebook the storm surges could push in as far as 3 kilometers (2 miles).

The hurricane was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticized as slow and unprepared for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago. President Donald Trump rejected that conclusion Thursday, arguing without evidence that the number was wrong and falsely called it a plot by Democrats to make him "look as bad as possible". GOES-East is one many satellites in orbit tracking the hurricane as it approaches the Carolinas.

The website has said more than 1,400 flights have been cancelled so far, with most of the coastal region's airports now closed.

Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington, and floating docks bounced atop swells at Morehead City.

Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.

He said: "Don't relax, don't get complacent". "Because it's Mother Nature". Forecasters are predicting as much as 40in of rain in some localized areas. That's enough water to fill the Empire State Building almost 40,000 times.

And when it comes to impacts like storm surge, size matters just as much as the winds, says Rick Luettich, a coastal physical oceanographer at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's Institute of Marine Sciences.

Mr Epperson said: "The anxiety level has dropped substantially". "If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely".

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