Wednesday, 26 September, 2018


Hurricane Florence still poses grave threat despite weaker winds

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Kristine Garrett | 13 September, 2018, 22:54

Florence's top sustained wind speeds dropped from a high of 140 miles per hour (225 kph) to 110 miles per hour (175 kph) as its outer rain bands approached the North Carolina coast early Thursday, reducing the storm from Category 4 to Category 2, but forecasters warned that the enormous wind field has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land.

State officials and the National Weather Service warned the storm's weakening only relates to wind speed, not surges or flooding. Heavy rains were forecast to extend into the Appalachians, affecting parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet have been forecast in some areas when the monster storm eventually makes landfall in North and SC.

Henry McMaster did not mince words on Thursday, delivering a dire message mainly to those coastal residents who have chosen to remain in their homes despite repeated warnings to leave as Hurricane Florence creeps toward the coast.

The NHC notes that amount of rainfall would "produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding".

People in areas vulnerable to the risky hurricane, particularly those in coastal regions, have fled ahead of the storm.

Airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and some airports in the Carolinas virtually shut down.

Besides inundating the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 13 feet (4 meters) along the Carolina coast, Florence could dump 20 to 30 inches (51-76 cm) of rain, with up to 40 inches in parts of North Carolina, the NHC said.

Early Wednesday afternoon in North Carolina, the storm was centered 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the coast, moving at 26 kph (16 mph) towards the U.S. coastline. The typhoon is expected to make landfall in the Philippines Saturday before barreling toward China, Vietnam and Laos. Those pipelines carry fuel from the Gulf Coast to much of the eastern United States.

Faced with new forecasts that showed a more southerly threat, Georgia's governor joined his counterparts in Virginia and North and SC in declaring a state of emergency, and some residents who had thought they were safely out of range boarded up their homes.

Officials in several states have declared states of emergency, including Virginia and Maryland, where coastal areas are still recovering from summer storms. The winds may be down a bit, but the one-two intense punches that we are expecting are still there. Tropical storm force winds extend up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the center.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Duck, NC, to Cape Charles Light, VA, and for Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

Higher sea levels to make a storm surge worse.

"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves", the NWS report said.

Over the weekend, remnants of Florence, are expected to move up the Appalachians.

A storm covering enormous area, to drench and lash more people. "These storms can be very disruptive to regional economies, and it takes time for them to recover", said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody's Analytics. The storm is expected to stall out before moving to the north. 15-20 inches of rain will be possible in places like Raleigh. But the damage to energy facilities is likely to be far milder than the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey, which a year ago battered Houston, the heart of the US energy industry.

"This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd and Matthew", it said.

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