Wed., Sept. 12, 2018, 8:08 am — Florence’s track to the U.S. East Coast shifted slightly to the south and the storm is now threatening to batter the entire Carolinas coast, aiming for landfall near Myrtle Beach.
While Florence, still 530 miles (855 kilometers) away, is expected to lose wind speed the closer it gets to land, it remains a formidable threat to the coastline from Georgetown, South Carolina, to Wilmington, North Carolina. Peak winds could be between 100 and 120 miles per hour.
Florence’s huge size, potential for a 13-foot ocean surge and torrential rains augur significant damage from the most powerful hurricane to hit the region in decades. Wind speed isn’t the only measure of danger from a storm like Florence, said Joel Myers, founder of AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The hurricane formed off Africa two weeks ago and has built up a wall of water on its trek that will now slosh against the Carolina coast.
History is full of storms that lost power before striking land and are still counted as among the most infamous — Katrina, Ike and Sandy are just three. They all stand as proof that ranking on the Saffir-Simpson windscale alone isn’t a measure of power.
“People worry about the winds on the Simpson scale,” Myers said. “But wind is on average the third cause of damage from a hurricane. First is flooding from heavy rain, then damage along the coast from the sea. They are focused on the wrong thing.”
President Donald Trump said it may be one of the worst storms ever to strike the U.S., after getting briefed by the leaders of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We’re as ready as anybody’s ever been,” he said at the White House Tuesday.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said the storm could undergo an “eye wall replacement,” which means it could weaken a bit as it comes near the coast, but at the same time it will swell in physical size.
Tropical storm force winds are reaching out as much as 175 miles, a sign it may devastate a broad swath of the region when it reaches land.
“What we are learning now, what we have been learning over the years, is that it is the size that also matters,” said Dan Kottlowski, meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
Unlike Hurricane Hazel, which made landfall near the North Carolina-South Carolina border in 1954 and quickly moved through the region, Florence is coming straight on and will stick around for days, AccuWeather’s Myers said. He said the storm is bigger than average, and pegs the potential costs at $30 billion.
“This is a slow-moving storm,” Myers said. “It is still going to be in western North Carolina on Monday.”
In preparation for Florence, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler approved emergency fuel waiver requests on Tuesday as “extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist in portions” of the Carolinas. The waiver will remain effective through Sept. 15 to help ensure a decent supply of gasoline.
To see a map of storms in the region, click HURR <GO>
As North Carolina residents brace for the storm, shelves at a Walmart Inc. store outside Raleigh, were cleared of supplies Tuesday. An Exxon Mobil Corp. station near Raleigh-Durham International Airport had cars lined up four deep at the pumps, before they were shut off later in the day.
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