Storm now a Category 2, still risky

Jodi Jacobson  iStock

Jodi Jacobson iStock

The NHC said an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft found that "Florence has changed little", and predicted "life-threatening storm surge and rainfall" across coastal regions of the Carolinas.

It was located 925 kms east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving at 28 kph in a west-northwest direction.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Florence is a powerful Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of about 125mph as it continued on its path toward the Carolinas Wednesday.

"The main life-threatening risk may be a prolonged heavy rainfall event with associated flooding", the weather service in Columbia, South Carolina, said.

To hasten evacuations from coastal SC, officials switched traffic patterns so that all major roads led away from shore.

Hurricane Florence continues its march towards the East Coast of the United States today, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station got a birds-eye view of just how large the swirling vortex has grown.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from SC, where some areas could see as much as 1 metre of rain, to Virginia. Hurricane Florence may reach a Category 5 storm before it's over.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools and factories were being shuttered.

The NHC said Florence's official track forecast could be adjusted further south soon, reflecting increasing pressure from this ridge pushing the storm more toward SC and Georgia.

"Historical rainfall amounts from #Florence are possible with UNPRECEDENTED flooding", according to the National Weather Service office in Newport and Morehead City, on North Carolina's coast.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and SC and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid.

"The concern is about people who are very young or very old, who don't have much money or access to transportation, who do not speak the predominant language or have access to information", Thomas Tighe, of Direct Relief, said.

- Thousands of people are already in shelters, Cooper said.

The last hurricane rated a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people.

"This week alone, we've shipped more than 1 million bottles of water, along with food, flashlights, batteries, phone chargers, cleaning supplies and more".

- Hurricane conditions are expected late Thursday night into Saturday morning.

This means Florence could hover over the southeast states, pouring risky rainfall causing flash flooding and river flooding - some areas are forecast to get from 15 to 20 inches to 30 inches or more localized areas. Tropical Storm Isaac was expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land.

Another 25 percent of deaths are related to rain, he said.

"This is not going to be a glancing blow", Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned. Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different. "As guests stock up, we know some of these items are selling out, but we're working around the clock to restock them as long as we safely can", the company said in a statement.

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