Hurricane Florence expected to cause ‘life-threatening storm surge’

Storm is generating winds of 110mph as more than 1.5m people ordered to evacuate from areas of North and South Carolina

By Erin Durkin | The Guardian | September 13, 2018

Forecasters have warned that Hurricane Florence remains a deadly weather event as wind and rain lashed North Carolina in the first signs of the storm’s arrival near land early on Thursday.

Florence was downgraded to a category 2 hurricane, from a category 4, but was still generating sustained winds of 105mph and expected to cause “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall”, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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More than 1.7 million people have been ordered to evacuate from coastal areas. Officials issued a stark warning on Thursday for those who choose to remain in their homes that emergency response units will not rescue them if they find themselves in an emergency in the height of the storm.

“We cannot underestimate this storm,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday. “Storm surge and massive flooding – both are going to be extreme. Catastrophic effects will be felt outside the center of the storm,” Cooper said. “We’re on the wrong side of this thing. This storm will bring destruction to North Carolina.”

As of 11am Thursday, the storm was located about 145 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and 195 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and continued to make its way towards the east coast.

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Hurricane conditions were expected to arrive in the affected areas on Thursday night or early Friday. Tornadoes also remain a threat, particularly in areas north-east of the hurricane’s eye.

“We are completely ready for Hurricane Florence, as the storm gets even larger and more powerful. Be careful!” Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.

About 10 million people live in areas covered by hurricane and tropical storm warnings, and 1.7 million were ordered to evacuate, though not all of them heeded those warnings and some insisted on staying put and riding out the storm.

Cooper said that even as wind speeds slowed, the hurricane’s breadth got wider, warning of “battering winds and relentless rain that will last for days.”

Camp Lejeune prepares to take in people fleeing Hurricane Florence in Jacksonville, North Carolina Wednesday.

Camp Lejeune prepares to take in people fleeing Hurricane Florence in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on Wednesday. Photograph: EPA

The state has opened 108 shelters, where more than 7,000 people are currently hunkered down, and schools in 56 districts are closed, according to the governor.

He said residents should not drive during the peak of the storm and should avoid driving through flooded roads. “That puts your life in danger,” he said.