The Associated PressRALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — With mandatory evacuations already issued for parts of three East Coast states, millions of Americans are preparing for what could become one of the most catastrophic hurricanes to hit the Eastern Seaboard in decades.
Carrying winds of up to 220 kilometers per hour as a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Florence is expected to strengthen and become a Category 5 storm Tuesday. It’s then forecast to close in on North or South Carolina on Thursday, hitting a stretch of coastline that’s vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.
“Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!” President Donald Trump tweeted Monday evening.
South Carolina’s governor ordered the state’s entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon Tuesday and predicted that 1 million people would flee. And Virginia’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.
The storm’s first effects were already apparent on barrier islands as dangerous rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway.
For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions.
The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.
Airlines, including American and Southwest, have started letting passengers change travel plans that take them into the hurricane’s possible path.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore. People living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards, he warned.
“It’s not just the coast,” Graham said. “When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center.”
A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 30 C, hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence’s hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats.Speech