WHAT'S HAPPENING: Hurricane Florence looms over East Coast

Cristina Cross
September 16, 2018

Hurricane Helene was gradually weakening and may become a tropical storm by Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Tuesday.

At 5 p.m., Isaac was located about 560 miles east of Barbados, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour and storm force winds extending 105 miles from the centre.

In addition to inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 9 feet (2.7 meters) along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 20 to 30 inches (51-76 cm) of rain, with up to 40 inches (1 metre) in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said.

Forecasters warn Hurricane Florence could hesitate just offshore for days, punishing a longer stretch of coastline, before pushing inland.

An extremely powerful hurricane is forecast to make landfall in the southern part of the United States later this week.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.

Robert Faircloth is preparing for Hurricane Florence.

Their entire neighborhood evacuated in Wilmington, North Carolina, David and Janelle Garrigus planned to ride out Florence at their daughter's one-bedroom apartment in Charlotte.

"We are. coordinating closely with state and local officials to help ensure the safety of our employees and our property prior to the storm's landfall", CSX spokesman Christopher Smith said.

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With flood waters advancing rapidly in many communities, around 50 stranded people had been airlifted out by helicopter in North Carolina, said Petty Officer Michael Himes of the U.S. Coast Guard.

"Strength, track, and forward speed of Florence will be the major players in determining the scope and amount of rainfall and correspondingly the severity of inland flooding", according to AccuWeather forecaster Dan Kottlowski on September 12.

"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The storm was centred about 835 miles (1340 kilometres) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 7 mph (11 kph).

Duke Energy, a power company in the Carolinas, estimated that one million to three million customers could lose electricity because of the storm and that it could take weeks to restore.

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland have declared states of emergency.

"I've been through hurricanes before but never with kids", she said.

SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.

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