This enhanced satellite image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence, third from right, in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. At right is Tropical Storm Helene, and second from right is Tropical Storm Isaac. (NOAA via AP)

Hurricane Florence reaches Category 4, could strike U.S. southeast

It’s too early to know the exact path, but forecasters said Florence could blow ashore in the Carolinas by Thursday.

Florence rapidly strengthened into a major hurricane on Monday, reaching Category 4 strength as it closes in on North and South Carolina,.

The first impacts were already being seen on North Carolina’s barrier islands Monday as dangerous rip currents and seawater flowed over the state highway. People were told to prepare to evacuate communities up and down a stretch of coastline already identified as particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

Related: Big Island feels the effects of approaching Hurricane Lane

Related: B.C. woman shares experience of riding out Hawaii hurricane

For many, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous weather across a wide area.

“Florence is quickly becoming a powerful hurricane,” hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote.

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 85 degrees (30 Celsius), 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, and raising the likelihood of life-threatening freshwater flooding.

“The bottom line is that there is increasing confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity,” Blake said.

By 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph). It was centred about 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometres) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 13 mph (20 kph). Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricanes Isaac, which could hit Caribbean islands, and Helene, much farther out to sea, lined up behind Florence as the 2018 Atlantic season reached its peak.

The governors of North and South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency far ahead of the approaching storm. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also suspended his campaign and asked President Donald Trump for a federal emergency declaration.

Navy ships off Virginia’s coast were preparing to sail out of the path, a North Carolina university has already cancelled classes and people have begun stocking up on plywood, bottled water and other supplies.

Red flags have already been flying on beaches, warning swimmers to stay out of the water as seas began kicking up. People rushed to get emergency kits ready, map out escape routes, fill sandbags and secure their homes.

“Pretend, assume, presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina and is going to go way inshore,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. The state’s emergency management agency said it is “preparing for the possibility of a large-scale disaster.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey’s new Age-Well hub receives $3.5M in government funding

Hub is meant to drive development of healthy tech solutions to support healthy aging: SFU

Surrey public event to explore transition from RCMP to city police force

Surrey Board of Trade continuing its ‘Hot Topic Dialogue Series’ with this issue, on Tuesday Jan. 29

Dancer gives props to Surrey school program for allowing him to leap to world stage

North Surrey grad Bynh Ho in ‘Loop, Lull’ show at Vancouver’s PuSh festival

KidSport’s Nite of Champions to honour championship Coastal FC squad

Annual South Surrey event will feature Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green as keynote speaker

Surrey RCMP investigating alleged ‘stranger assault’ in Tynehead area

Police say a 14-year-old girl was walking home from school at the time of the incident

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

North Delta happening: week of Jan. 17

Events, courses and clubs listings for North Delta

Most Read